Germ Cells are Made Semiotically Competent During Evolution

Franco Giorgi, Luis Emilio Bruni

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Germ cells are cross-roads of development and evolution. They define the origin of every new generation and, at the same time, represent the biological end-product of any mature organism. Germ cells are endowed with the following capacities: (1) to store a self-descriptive program, (2) to accumulate a protein-synthesizing machinery (ribosomes), and (3) to incorporate enough nourishment to sustain embryonic development (yolk). To accomplish this goal, germ cells do not simply unfold a pre-determined program or realize a sole instructive role. On the contrary, due to the complexity of their cytoarchitecture and the nature of the soma-to-germ interactions, they are heavily involved in processes of sign recognition and meaningful tissue exploration. At each stage of their inward migration, germ plasma membranes act as semiotic interfaces allowing cells to interact with the surrounding extracellular milieu and experience the compatibility of selected developmental sequences. The question of which signaling pathways are activated at each developmental stage does not result from a strictly predetermined program instructing germ cell stemness. Rather, each developmental sequence is an open-ended semiotic relationship explored and gradually defined during evolution by the context-dependency of specific cell-to-cell interactions. In this way, any structural and functional novelty that has emerged in the course of germ cell interactions may be interpreted as an exaptation fixed in the species genome in response to specific environmental constraints.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)31–49
Publication statusPublished - 23 Mar 2016


  • Germ-cells
  • Development
  • Evolution
  • Signaling
  • Semiotic interfaces

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