While it is known that stem cells have the ability to develop into all tissues in a precisely regulated process, the way environmental cues affect stem cell behavior has remained poorly understood. In a new study, researchers from the University of Tsukuba discovered that neurons producing the neurotransmitter octopamine regulate the behavior of germline stem cells (GSCs) in response to environmental cues, such as mating.
The ovaries of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster have been a robust model system for studying the relationship between environmental cues and stem cell biology. In fruit flies, GSCs give rise to eggs and exist in close proximity to somatic cells. Somatic cells comprise several types of cells in support of the budding eggs. As with other stem cells, when GSCs divide, one daughter cell retains its stem cell identity, while the other differentiates into multiple progeny cells. The balance between self-renewal and differentiation is tightly regulated, both by cues within and outside the environment in which GSCs reside (also called a niche). Mating is one such external cue known to increase GSCs.
“It is well known that a molecule called sex peptide from the male seminal fluid activates neurons located in the uterine lumen. We have previously shown that these neurons are essential for stimulating the biosynthesis of ovarian steroid hormones to increase the number of GSCs,” says corresponding author of the study Professor Ryusuke Niwa. “The goal of our study was to investigate how the information from mating is transmitted