Significance: Functional stem cell decline has been postulated to result in loss of maintenance of tissue homeostasis leading to organismal decline and diseases of aging.
Recent advances: Recent findings implicate redox metabolism in the control of stem cell pool and stem cell aging. Although reactive oxygen species (ROS) are better known for their damaging properties to DNA, proteins and lipids, recent findings suggest that ROS may also be an integral physiological mediator of cellular signaling in primary cells.
Critical issues: Here we review recent published work on major signaling pathways and transcription factors that are regulated by ROS and mediate ROS regulation of stem cell fate. We will specifically focus on how alterations in this regulation may be implicated in disease and particularly in diseases of stem cell aging. In general, based on the work described here we propose a model in which ROS function as stem cell rheostat.
Future directions: Future work in elucidating how ROS control stem cell cycling, apoptotic machinery, and lineage determination should shed light on mechanisms whereby ROS may control stem cell aging.