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Identification of chicken LOC420478 as Bucky ball equivalent and potential germ plasm organizer in birds

Bucky ball was identified as germ plasm organizer in zebrafish and has proven crucial for Balbiani body condensation. A synteny comparison identified an uncharacterized gene locus in the chicken genome as predicted avian counterpart. Here, we present experimental evidence that this gene locus indeed encodes a ‘Bucky ball’ equivalent in matured oocytes and early embryos of chicken. Heterologous expression of Bucky ball fusion proteins both from zebrafish and chicken with a fluorescent reporter revealed unique patterns indicative for liquid–liquid phase separation of intrinsically disordered proteins. Immuno-labeling detected Bucky ball from oocytes to blastoderms with diffuse distribution in matured oocytes, aggregation in first cleavage furrows, and co-localization to the chicken vasa homolog (CVH). Later, Bucky ball translocated to the cytoplasm of first established cells, and showed nuclear translocation during the major zygotic activation together with CVH. Remarkably, during the phase of area pellucida formation, Bucky ball translocated back into the cytoplasm at stage EGK VI, whereas CVH remained within the nuclei. The condensation of Bucky ball and co-localization with CVH in cleavage furrows and nuclei of the centrally located cells strongly suggests chicken Bucky ball as a germ plasm organizer in birds, and indicate a special importance of the major zygotic activation for germline specification.


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