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Cell Stem Cell. 2007 Oct 11;1(4):470-8. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2007.08.002.

Decline in self-renewal factors contributes to aging of the stem cell niche in the Drosophila testis.

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Laboratory of Genetics, The Salk Institute for Biological Studies, La Jolla, CA 92037, USA.


Aging is characterized by compromised organ and tissue function. A decrease in stem cell number and/or activity could lead to the aging-related decline in tissue homeostasis. We have analyzed how the process of aging affects germ line stem cell (GSC) behavior in the Drosophila testis and report that significant changes within the stem cell microenvironment, or niche, occur that contribute to a decline in stem cell number over time. Specifically, somatic niche cells in testes from older males display reduced expression of the cell adhesion molecule DE-cadherin and a key self-renewal signal unpaired (upd). Loss of upd correlates with an overall decrease in stem cells residing within the niche. Conversely, forced expression of upd within niche cells maintains GSCs in older males. Therefore, our data indicate that age-related changes within stem cell niches may be a significant contributing factor to reduced tissue homeostasis and regeneration in older individuals.

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