Defining gene networks controlling the maintenance and function of the differentiation niche by an in vivo systematic RNAi screen

J Genet Genomics. 2019 Jan 20;46(1):19-30. doi: 10.1016/j.jgg.2018.10.008. Epub 2019 Jan 30.


In the Drosophila ovary, escort cells (ECs) extrinsically control germline stem cell (GSC) maintenance and progeny differentiation. However, the underlying mechanisms remain poorly understood. In this study, we identified 173 EC genes for their roles in controlling GSC maintenance and progeny differentiation by using an in vivo systematic RNAi approach. Of the identified genes, 10 and 163 are required in ECs to promote GSC maintenance and progeny differentiation, respectively. The genes required for progeny differentiation fall into different functional categories, including transcription, mRNA splicing, protein degradation, signal transduction and cytoskeleton regulation. In addition, the GSC progeny differentiation defects caused by defective ECs are often associated with BMP signaling elevation, indicating that preventing BMP signaling is a general functional feature of the differentiation niche. Lastly, exon junction complex (EJC) components, which are essential for mRNA splicing, are required in ECs to promote GSC progeny differentiation by maintaining ECs and preventing BMP signaling. Therefore, this study has identified the major regulators of the differentiation niche, which provides important insights into how stem cell progeny differentiation is extrinsically controlled.

Keywords: Escort cells; Germline stem cells; In vivo screen.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics*
  • Drosophila melanogaster / cytology
  • Drosophila melanogaster / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Regulatory Networks*
  • Genes, Essential / genetics
  • Genomics
  • Mutation
  • Ovary / cytology
  • Ovary / metabolism
  • Phenotype
  • RNA Interference*
  • RNA Splicing
  • Signal Transduction / genetics


  • Bone Morphogenetic Proteins