Transcription factor networks that influence stem cell behavior

Stem cell behavior, including the decision between self-renewal and the onset of differentiation, is influenced by the surrounding environment, or niche, in which stem cells reside.  The size and number of niches within a tissue must be tightly regulated to provide for an adequate number of stem and progenitor cells to maintain tissue homeostasis. However, the relationship between stem cells and their niche must be dynamic and responsive to changes in the local and systemic environments, particularly in the case of tissue damage or environmental insult.

We have found that the Snail family transcriptional repressor Escargot (Esg) acts as a master regulator of stem cell fate and niche integrity in the Drosophila male germ line.  In addition to expression in both germline and somatic stem cells in the testis, Esg is expressed in a number of adult stem cell populations in Drosophila, including the intestinal stem cells in the midgut.  We are using biochemistry, genetics, genomics, and bioinformatics to uncover how Esg is acting as a node to regulate stem cells, their niche and the interaction between them in multiple tissues.