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Fetal germ cell development is tightly regulated by the somatic cell environment, and is characterised by cell cycle states that differ between XY and XX gonads. In the testis, gonocytes enter G1/G0 arrest from 12.5 days post coitum (dpc) in mice and maintain cell cycle arrest until after birth. Failure to correctly maintain G1/G0 arrest can result in loss of germ cells or, conversely, germ cell tumours. High mobility group box containing transcription factor 1 (HBP1) is a transcription factor that was previously identified in fetal male germ cells at the time of embryonic cell cycle arrest. In somatic cells, HBP1 is classified as a tumour suppressor protein, known to regulate proliferation and senescence. We therefore investigated the possible role of HBP1 in the initiation and maintenance of fetal germ cell G1/G0 arrest using the mouse model. We identified two splice variants of Hbp1, both of which are expressed in XY and XX fetal gonads, but only one of which is localised to the nucleus in in vitro assays. To investigate Hbp1 loss of function, we used embryonic stem (ES) cells carrying a Genetrap mutation for Hbp1 to generate mice lacking Hbp1 function. We found that Hbp1-genetrap mouse mutant germ cells proliferated correctly throughout development, and adult males were viable and fertile. Multiple Hbp1-LacZ reporter mouse lines were generated, unexpectedly revealing Hbp1 embryonic expression in hair follicles, eye and limbs. Lastly, in a model of defective germ cell G1/G0 arrest, the Rb1-knockout model, we found no evidence for Hbp1 mis-regulation, suggesting that the reported RB1-HBP1 interaction is not critical in the germline, despite co-expression.
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