Stem cells, which regenerate tissue by producing differentiating cells, also produce cells that renew the stem cell population. Signals from regulatory microenvironments (niches) are thought to cause stem cells to retain self-renewing potential. However, the molecular characterization of niches remains an important goal. In Drosophila testes, germ line and somatic stem cells attach to a cluster of support cells called the hub. The hub specifically expresses Unpaired, a ligand activating the JAK-STAT (Janus kinase-signal transducer and activator of transcription) signaling cascade. Without JAK-STAT signaling, germ line stem cells differentiate but do not self-renew. Conversely, ectopic JAK-STAT signaling greatly expands both stem cell populations. We conclude that the support cells of the hub signal to adjacent stem cells by activation of the JAK-STAT pathway, thereby defining a niche for stem cell self-renewal.
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