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Steroid signaling promotes stem cell maintenance in the Drosophila testis

Li, Yijie, Ma, Qing, Cherry, Christopher M., Matunis, Erika L.
Developmental biology 2014 v.394 no.1 pp. 129-141
Drosophila, adults, animal ovaries, cell death, cell viability, ecdysone, ecdysone receptor, females, genes, germ cells, males, stem cells, testes
Stem cell regulation by local signals is intensely studied, but less is known about the effects of hormonal signals on stem cells. In Drosophila, the primary steroid twenty-hydroxyecdysone (20E) regulates ovarian germline stem cells (GSCs) but was considered dispensable for testis GSC maintenance. Male GSCs reside in a microenvironment (niche) generated by somatic hub cells and adjacent cyst stem cells (CySCs). Here, we show that depletion of 20E from adult males by overexpressing a dominant negative form of the Ecdysone receptor (EcR) or its heterodimeric partner ultraspiracle (usp) causes GSC and CySC loss that is rescued by 20E feeding, uncovering a requirement for 20E in stem cell maintenance. EcR and USP are expressed, activated and autonomously required in the CySC lineage to promote CySC maintenance, as are downstream genes ftz-f1 and E75. In contrast, GSCs non-autonomously require ecdysone signaling. Global inactivation of EcR increases cell death in the testis that is rescued by expression of EcR-B2 in the CySC lineage, indicating that ecdysone signaling supports stem cell viability primarily through a specific receptor isoform. Finally, EcR genetically interacts with the NURF chromatin-remodeling complex, which we previously showed maintains CySCs. Thus, although 20E levels are lower in males than females, ecdysone signaling acts through distinct cell types and effectors to ensure both ovarian and testis stem cell maintenance.