Meiosis arrest female 1 (MARF1) has nuage-like function in mammalian oocytes.
Orderly regulation of meiosis and protection of germline genomic integrity from transposable elements are essential for male and female gamete development. In the male germline, these processes are ensured by proteins associated with cytoplasmic nuage, but morphologically similar germ granules or nuage have not been identified in mammalian female germ cells. Indeed, many mutations affecting nuage-associated proteins such as PIWI and tudor domain containing proteins 5 and 7 (TDRD5/7) can result in failure of meiosis, up-regulation of retrotransposons, and infertility only in males and not in females. We recently identified MARF1 (meiosis arrest female 1) as a protein essential for controlling meiosis and retrotransposon surveillance in oocytes; and in contrast to PIWI-pathway mutations, Marf1 mutant females are infertile, whereas mutant males are fertile. Here we put forward the hypothesis that MARF1 in mouse oocytes is a functional counterpart of the nuage-associated components of spermatocytes. We describe the developmental pattern of Marf1 expression and its roles in retrotransposon silencing and protection from DNA double-strand breaks. Analysis of MARF1 protein domains compared with PIWI and TDRD5/7 revealed that these functional similarities are reflected in remarkable structural analogies. Thus, functions that in the male germline require protein interactions and cooperative scaffolding are combined in MARF1, allowing a single molecule to execute crucial activities of meiotic regulation and protection of germline genomic integrity.