The gastrointestinal (GI) tract of metazoans is lined by a series of regionally distinct epithelia. To maintain structure and function of the GI tract, regionally diversified differentiation of somatic stem cell (SC) lineages is critical. The adult Drosophila midgut provides an accessible model to study SC regulation and specification in a regionally defined manner. SCs of the posterior midgut (PM) have been studied extensively, but the control of SCs in the middle midgut (MM) is less well understood. The MM contains a stomach-like copper cell region (CCR) that is regenerated by gastric stem cells (GSSCs) and contains acid-secreting copper cells (CCs). Bmp-like Decapentaplegic (Dpp) signaling determines the identity of GSSCs, and is required for CC regeneration, yet the precise control of Dpp signaling activity in this lineage remains to be fully established. Here, we show that Dad, a negative feedback regulator of Dpp signaling, is dynamically regulated in the GSSC lineage to allow CC differentiation. Dad is highly expressed in GSSCs and their first daughter cells, the gastroblasts (GBs), but has to be repressed in differentiating CCs to allow Dpp-mediated differentiation into CCs. We find that the Hox gene ultrabithorax (Ubx) is required for this regulation. Loss of Ubx prevents Dad repression in the CCR, resulting in defective CC regeneration. Our study highlights the need for dynamic control of Dpp signaling activity in the differentiation of the GSSC lineage and identifies Ubx as a critical regulator of this process.
Keywords: Drosophila; Intestinal stem cell; Regeneration; Ubx.
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