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Fly (Austin). 2013 Jan-Mar;7(1):3-7. doi: 10.4161/fly.22687. Epub 2012 Dec 3.

Sex, stem cells and tumors in the Drosophila ovary.

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Department of Genetics and Genome Sciences, Case Western Reserve University, School of Medicine, Cleveland, OH, USA.


The Drosophila Sex-lethal (Sxl) gene encodes a female-specific RNA binding protein that in somatic cells globally regulates all aspects of female-specific development and behavior. Sxl also has a critical, but less well understood, role in female germ cells. Germ cells without Sxl protein can adopt a stem cell fate when housed in a normal ovary, but fail to successfully execute the self-renewal differentiation fate switch. The failure to differentiate is accompanied by the inappropriate expression of a set of male specific markers, continued proliferation, and formation of a tumor. The findings in Chau et al., (2012) identify the germline stem cell maintenance factor nanos as one of its target genes, and suggest that Sxl enables the switch from germline stem cell to committed daughter cell by posttranscriptional downregulation of nanos expression. These studies provide the basis for a new model in which Sxl directly couples sexual identity with the self-renewal differentiation decision and raises several interesting questions about the genesis of the tumor phenotype.


Sxl; bam; germline tumors; nanos; sex determination; stem cell differentiation

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