FIGLA, a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor, balances sexually dimorphic gene expression in postnatal oocytes.
Maintenance of sex-specific germ cells requires balanced activation and repression of genetic hierarchies to ensure gender-appropriate development in mammals. Figla (factor in the germ line, alpha) encodes a germ cell-specific basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor first identified as an activator of oocyte genes. In comparing the ovarian proteome of normal and Figla null newborn mice, 18 testis-specific or -enhanced proteins were identified that were more abundant in Figla null ovaries than in normal ovaries. Transgenic mice, ectopically expressing Figla in male germ cells, downregulated a subset of these genes and demonstrated age-related sterility associated with impaired meiosis and germ cell apoptosis. Testis-associated genes, including Tdrd1, Tdrd6, and Tdrd7, were suppressed in the transgenic males with a corresponding disruption of the sperm chromatoid body and mislocalization of MVH and MILI proteins, previously implicated in posttranscriptional processing of RNA. These data demonstrate that physiological expression of Figla plays a critical dual role in activation of oocyte-associated genes and repression of sperm-associated genes during normal postnatal oogenesis.