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Fine scale analysis of gene expression in Drosophila melanogaster gonads reveals Programmed cell death 4 promotes the differentiation of female germline stem cells

Amy C Cash and Justen Andrews*

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Department of Biology, Indiana University, Myers Hall, 915 East Third St., Bloomington, IN 47403, USA

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Citation and License

BMC Developmental Biology 2012, 12:4  doi:10.1186/1471-213X-12-4

Published: 17 January 2012



Germline stem cells (GSCs) are present in the gonads of Drosophila females and males, and their proper maintenance, as well as their correct differentiation, is essential for fertility and fecundity. The molecular characterization of factors involved in maintenance and differentiation is a major goal both in Drosophila and stem cell research. While genetic studies have identified many of these key factors, the use of genome-wide expression studies holds the potential to greatly increase our knowledge of these pathways.


Here we report a genome-wide expression study that uses laser cutting microdissection to isolate germline stem cells, somatic niche cells, and early differentiating germ cells from female and male gonads. Analysis of this data, in association with two previously published genome-wide GSC data sets, revealed sets of candidate genes as putatively expressed in specific cell populations. Investigation of one of these genes, CG10990 the Drosophila ortholog of mammalian Programmed cell death 4 (Pdcd4), reveals expression in female and male germline stem cells and early differentiating daughter cells. Functional analysis demonstrates that while it is not essential for oogenesis or spermatogenesis, it does function to promote the differentiation of GSCs in females. Furthermore, in females, Pdcd4 genetically interacts with the key differentiation gene bag of marbles (bam) and the stem cell renewal factor eIF4A, suggesting a possible pathway for its function in differentiation.


We propose that Pdcd4 promotes the differentiation of GSC daughter cells by relieving the eIF4A-mediated inhibition of Bam.