Intestinal renewal across the animal kingdom: comparing stem cell activity in mouse and Drosophila

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2019 Mar 1;316(3):G313-G322. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00353.2018. Epub 2018 Dec 13.


The gastrointestinal (GI) tract renews frequently to sustain nutrient digestion and absorption in the face of consistent tissue stress. In many species, proliferative intestinal stem cells (ISCs) are responsible for the repair of the damage arising from chemical and mechanical aspects of food breakdown and exposure to pathogens. As the cellular source of all mature cell types of the intestinal epithelium throughout adulthood, ISCs hold tremendous therapeutic potential for understanding and treating GI disease in humans. This review focuses on recent advances in our understanding of ISC identity, behavior, and regulation during homeostasis and injury-induced repair, as revealed by two major animal models used to study regeneration of the small intestine: Drosophila melanogaster and Mus musculus. We emphasize recent findings from Drosophila that are likely to translate to the mammalian GI system, as well as challenging topics in mouse ISC biology that may be ideally suited for investigation in flies. For context, we begin by reviewing major physiological similarities and distinctions between the Drosophila midgut and mouse small intestine.

Keywords: animal models; intestinal stem cells; midgut; regeneration; small intestine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology*
  • Drosophila
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intestines / cytology
  • Intestines / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Regeneration / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism