Germ cell differentiation and synaptonemal complex formation are disrupted in CPEB knockout mice.
CPEB is a sequence-specific RNA binding protein that regulates translation during vertebrate oocyte maturation. Adult female CPEB knockout mice contained vestigial ovaries that were devoid of oocytes; ovaries from mid-gestation embryos contained oocytes that were arrested at the pachytene stage. Male CPEB null mice also contained germ cells arrested at pachytene. The germ cells from the knockout mice harbored fragmented chromatin, suggesting a possible defect in homologous chromosome adhesion or synapsis. Two CPE-containing synaptonemal complex protein mRNAs, which interact with CPEB in vitro and in vivo, contained shortened poly(A) tails and mostly failed to sediment with polysomes in the null mice. Synaptonemal complexes were not detected in these animals. CPEB therefore controls germ cell differentiation by regulating the formation of the synaptonemal complex.