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Stem Cell Niches in Drosophila

  1. Yukiko M Yamashita

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0021854



How to Cite

Yamashita, Y. M. 2009. Stem Cell Niches in Drosophila. eLS. .

Author Information

  1. University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


Adult stem cells supply a continual source of highly differentiated cells throughout the life of an organism. They are able to maintain an undifferentiated state and possess unlimited proliferation capacity. Many stem cells reside in a special microenvironment known as a niche that specifies stem cell identity and protects them from differentiation by providing essential molecular signals. Because of its essential requirement to maintain stem cells, the stem cell niche also limits the number of stem cells, safeguarding against cancer. Drosophila melanogaster has served as an ideal model system to study stem cells and their niches, thanks to the well-understood signalling pathways, elegant genetics and relatively simple anatomy. Studies in Drosophila have provided a fundamental framework for understanding mammalian stem cells and their niches. Here, I give an overview of how stem cells are regulated by their niches in Drosophila.

Key concepts

  • Adult stem cells: Cells found in adult tissues that are capable of proliferation over a prolonged time period (throughout the life of the organism) and of further differentiation to produce various types of differentiated cells in the tissue.

  • Self-renewal: The phenomenon by which stem cells produce stem cells on cell division. Stem cell characteristics, including undifferentiated state, proliferative potential and developmental potential to differentiate, are maintained.

  • Niche: A microenvironment in which stem cell characteristics (such as stem cell identity and proliferation potential) are maintained.

  • Asymmetric stem cell division: A form of stem cell division in which one stem cell and one differentiated cell are created, thereby maintaining stem cell number.


  • adult stem cells;
  • niche;
  • self-renewal;
  • asymmetric division;
  • BMP signalling;
  • Jak-STAT pathway