Though the manner in which some cells win this competition is well known to be the survival of the fittest, how stem cells duke it out for space and survival is not as clear. A study on fruit flies published in the October 2 issue of Science by Johns Hopkins researchers describes how stem cells win this battle by literally sticking around.
“Our work exemplifies how one signal coordinately maintains two types of stem cells in a single niche, or microenvironment,” says Erika Matunis, Ph.D., associate professor of cell biology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. “What we found may emerge as common themes of mammalian stem cell niches as they become better characterized.”
To tackle the stem cell competition quandary, the team looked at fruit fly testes where two different stem cells exist: germline stem cells which give rise to sperm, and somatic stem cells which develop into non-reproductive cell types.
Using genetics, the researchers grew flies lacking the SOCS protein, which controls other molecules that promote stem cell growth. SOCS normally ensures that the right numbers of stem cells are present in the stem cell niche, a region at the far end of the fly testis where new cells are born. In a normal testis, the germline stem cells are surrounded by somatic stem cells at a ratio of about one germline stem cell for every two somatic stem cells.
The researchers isolated testes from flies lacking SOCS and, under a microscope, counted the number of germline stem cells and somatic stem cells. They found that nearly half of the germline stem cells were gone and the somatic stem cells appeared to be occupying that space.
“The somatic stem cells almost look like they’ve invaded the niche area,” says Melanie Issigonis, a graduate student in the Biochemistry, Cellular, and Molecular Biology graduate program at Johns Hopkins. “I saw that image and said, ‘Wow, it’s right there. Germline stem cell loss.’”
To figure out where the lost germline stem cells went and how they lost the battle for space, the team returned to the microscope. This time, they examined the cells for whether they contained integrin, a protein that helps cells stick to each other. They found that somatic stem cells from flies lacking SOCS seemed to contain more integrin than somatic stem cells from flies with functional SOCS. According to Matunis, it’s the increase in integrin that allows somatic stem cells to gain the upper hand because they can stick to the niche better than neighboring germline stem cells can.
Though the somatic stem cells were invading the niche, germline stem cells were not dying. In the microscope images, the team found that all remaining germline stem cells still looked alive and healthy, but elbowed out of their niche by somatic stem cells. Says Matunis, no matter how healthy a germline stem cell is, if it cannot stick, it will eventually be outcompeted by the somatic cells and pushed all the way out of the niche. Issigonis found the discovery remarkable: “The germline stem cells are perfectly fine,” she says. “They’re just leaving the niche and differentiating.”
The team believes this model can be applied to other stem cell niches such as cancer. Just like the somatic stem cells overrunning the fly testes, cancer stem cells in mammalian systems become a danger when they become the stickiest cell in the niche. In both cases, the important control protein, SOCS, is lost. Knowing what is necessary for some stem cells to thrive and others to dwindle could have great importance to understanding the roots of stem cell diseases.
This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and a grant from the March of Dimes.
Authors of the text were Melanie Issigonis, Margaret de Cuevas, Laurel Sandler, and Erika Matunis, all of Johns Hopkins, Natalia Tulina of University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, and Crista Brawley of University of Chicago.On the Web:
Biochemistry, Cellular and Molecular Biology Graduate Program at Johns Hopkins http://biolchem.bs.jhmi.edu/bcmb/index.shtmlScience Magazine
Meg Marquardt | Newswise Science News
Fingerprint' technique spots frog populations at risk from pollution
27.03.2017 | Lancaster University
Parallel computation provides deeper insight into brain function
27.03.2017 | Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) Graduate University
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
27.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences
27.03.2017 | Life Sciences