The systemic regulation of stem cells ensures that they meet the needs of the organism during growth and in response to injury. A key point of regulation is the decision between quiescence and proliferation. During development, Drosophila neural stem cells (neuroblasts) transit through a period of quiescence separating distinct embryonic and postembryonic phases of proliferation. It is known that neuroblasts exit quiescence via a hitherto unknown pathway in response to a nutrition-dependent signal from the fat body. We have identified a population of glial cells that produce insulin/IGF-like peptides in response to nutrition, and we show that the insulin/IGF receptor pathway is necessary for neuroblasts to exit quiescence. The forced expression of insulin/IGF-like peptides in glia, or activation of PI3K/Akt signaling in neuroblasts, can drive neuroblast growth and proliferation in the absence of dietary protein and thus uncouple neuroblasts from systemic control.
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