The spermatogenesis/oogenesis helix-loop-helix (SOHLH) proteins SOHLH1 and SOHLH2 play important roles in male and female reproduction. Although previous studies indicate that these transcriptional regulators are expressed in and have in vivo roles in postnatal ovaries, their expression and function in the embryonic ovary remain largely unknown. Because oocyte differentiation is tightly coupled with the onset of meiosis, it is of significant interest to determine how early oocyte transcription factors regulate these two processes. In this issue of the JCI, Shin and colleagues report that SOHLH1 and SOHLH2 demonstrate distinct expression patterns in the embryonic ovary and interact with each other and other oocyte-specific transcription factors to regulate oocyte differentiation. Interestingly, even though there is a rapid loss of oocytes postnatally in ovaries with combined loss of Sohlh1 and Sohlh2, meiosis is not affected and proceeds normally.
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