Research ArticleDevelopmental Biology

The Drosophila Female Germline Stem Cell Lineage Acts to Spatially Restrict DPP Function Within the Niche

Science Signaling  27 Jul 2010:
Vol. 3, Issue 132, pp. ra57
DOI: 10.1126/scisignal.2000740

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Identifying with One’s Niche

The stem cell niche in the Drosophila germarium (which produces egg chambers) supports two to three self-renewing germline stem cells (GSCs) surrounded by various types of somatic cells. The morphogen Decapentaplegic (DPP), which is produced by somatic cells in the niche, defines the spatial limits of the niche. Cells inside the niche are exposed to high concentrations of DPP and are maintained as stem cells, whereas cells located outside the niche receive lower concentrations and differentiate. However, it has been unclear how DPP activity is spatially restricted. Liu et al. found that when GSCs lacked functional Stet, an intramembrane protease that processes precursors of EGFR ligands into their mature forms, epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling in somatic cells decreased, thereby increasing the expression of a glypican necessary for DPP stability and transport. Thus, mutant germaria for stet contained more cells that were activated by DPP and had more GSC-like cells than did wild-type germaria, indicating an expanded range for DPP function and, consequently, niche activity. These results suggest that GSCs play an active role in defining the size of the niche.