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Aging Cell. 2006 Aug;5(4):297-304. Epub 2006 Jun 26.

Dynamics of the male germline stem cell population during aging of Drosophila melanogaster.

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Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19103, USA.


Drosophila melanogaster has emerged as an important model system for the study of both stem cell biology and aging. Much is known about how molecular signals from the somatic niche regulate adult stem cells in the germline, and a variety of environmental factors as well as single point mutations have been shown to affect lifespan. Relatively little is known, however, about how aging affects specific populations of cells, particularly adult stem cells that may be susceptible to aging-related damage. Here we show that male germline stem cells (GSCs) are lost from the stem cell niche during aging, but are efficiently replaced to maintain overall stem cell number. We also find that the division rate of GSCs slows significantly during aging, and that this slowing correlates with a reduction in the number of somatic hub cells that contribute to the stem cell niche. Interestingly, slowing of stem cell division rate was not observed in long-lived methuselah mutant flies. We finally investigated whether two mechanisms that are thought to be used in other adult stem cell types to minimize the effects of aging were operative in this system. First, in many adult tissues stem cells exhibit markedly fewer cell cycles relative to transit-amplifying cells, presumably protecting the stem cell pool from replication-associated damage. Second, at any given time not all stem cells actively cycle, leading to 'clonal succession' from the reserve pool of initially quiescent stem cells. We find that neither of these mechanisms is used in Drosophila male GSCs.

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