DNA asymmetry in stem cells - immortal or mortal?

J Cell Sci. 2013 Sep 15;126(Pt 18):4069-76. doi: 10.1242/jcs.096024. Epub 2013 Aug 22.


The immortal strand hypothesis proposes that stem cells retain a template copy of genomic DNA (i.e. an 'immortal strand') to avoid replication-induced mutations. An alternative hypothesis suggests that certain cells segregate sister chromatids non-randomly to transmit distinct epigenetic information. However, this area of research has been highly controversial, with conflicting data even from the same cell types. Moreover, historically, the same term of 'non-random sister chromatid segregation' or 'biased sister chromatid segregation' has been used to indicate distinct biological processes, generating a confusion in the biological significance and potential mechanism of each phenomenon. Here, we discuss the models of non-random sister chromatid segregation, and we explore the strengths and limitations of the various techniques and experimental model systems used to study this question. We also describe our recent study on Drosophila male germline stem cells, where sister chromatids of X and Y chromosomes are segregated non-randomly during cell division. We aim to integrate the existing evidence to speculate on the underlying mechanisms and biological relevance of this long-standing observation on non-random sister chromatid segregation.

Keywords: Asymmetric cell division; Drosophila; Immortal strand hypothesis; Niche; Stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Division
  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA / metabolism*
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Germ Cells / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • DNA