Steroid hormones are known systemic regulators of multiple normal and cancerous tissues; however, whether or how they impact the fate and function of adult stem cells is unclear. In the Drosophila ovary, insulin signals modulate the proliferation and self-renewal of germline stem cells (GSCs), yet despite evidence that additional systemic factors control GSC activity, these have remained largely unknown. Here, we report that ecdysone, a steroid hormone structurally related to mammalian sex steroids, directly regulates adult GSC proliferation and self-renewal independently of insulin signaling. Ecdysone controls GSCs through a functional interaction with the chromatin remodeling factors ISWI, an intrinsic epigenetic factor required for GSC fate and activity, and Nurf301, the largest subunit of the ISWI-containing NURF chromatin remodeling complex. Our findings support a link between systemic steroid hormones and the intrinsic chromatin remodeling machinery as a potential mechanism to promote broad transcriptional programs required for adult stem cell self-renewal.
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