J Gebel, M Tuppi, K Krauskopf, D Coutandin, S Pitzius, S Kehrloesser, C Osterburg, V Dötsch
J Cell Sci
Germ cells are totipotent and, in principle, immortal as they are the source for new germ cells in each generation. This very special role requires tight quality control systems. The p53 protein family constitutes one of the most important quality surveillance systems in cells. Whereas p53 has become famous for its role as the guardian of the genome in its function as the most important somatic tumor suppressor, p63 has been nicknamed 'guardian of the female germ line'. p63 is strongly expressed in resting oocytes and responsible for eliminating those that carry DNA double-strand breaks. The third family member, p73, acts later during oocyte and embryo development by ensuring correct assembly of the spindle assembly checkpoint. In addition to its role in the female germ line, p73 regulates cell-cell contacts between developing sperm cells and supporting somatic cells in the male germ line. Here, we review the involvement of the p53 protein family in the development of germ cells with a focus on quality control in the female germ line and discuss medical implications for cancer patients.