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Traffic jam functions in a branched pathway from Notch activation to niche cell fate

Wingert, L.; DiNardo, S.

Development 142(13): 2268-2277

2015


ISSN/ISBN: 1477-9129
PMID: 26092848
DOI: 10.1242/dev.124230
Accession: 059150642

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The niche directs key behaviors of its resident stem cells, and is thus crucial for tissue maintenance, repair and longevity. However, little is known about the genetic pathways that guide niche specification and development. The male germline stem cell niche in Drosophila houses two stem cell populations and is specified within the embryonic gonad, thus making it an excellent model for studying niche development. The hub cells that form the niche are specified early by Notch activation. Over the next few hours, these individual cells then cluster together and take up a defined position before expressing markers of hub cell differentiation. This timing suggests that there are other factors for niche development yet to be defined. Here, we have identified a role for the large Maf transcription factor Traffic jam (Tj) in hub cell specification downstream of Notch. Tj downregulation is the first detectable effect of Notch activation in hub cells. Furthermore, Tj depletion is sufficient to generate ectopic hub cells that can recruit stem cells. Surprisingly, ectopic niche cells in tj mutants remain dispersed in the absence of Notch activation. This led us to uncover a branched pathway downstream of Notch in which Bowl functions to direct hub cell assembly in parallel to Tj downregulation.

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