, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 597-608
Date: 19 Apr 2012

Genetic Control of Intestinal Stem Cell Specification and Development: A Comparative View

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Abstract

Stem cells of the adult vertebrate intestine (ISCs) are responsible for the continuous replacement of intestinal cells, but also serve as site of origin of intestinal neoplasms. The interaction between multiple signaling pathways, including Wnt/Wg, Shh/Hh, BMP, and Notch, orchestrate mitosis, motility, and differentiation of ISCs. Many fundamental questions of how these pathways carry out their function remain unanswered. One approach to gain more insight is to look at the development of stem cells, to analyze the “programming” process which these cells undergo as they emerge from the large populations of embryonic progenitors. This review intends to summarize pertinent data on vertebrate intestinal stem cell biology, to then take a closer look at recent studies of intestinal stem cell development in Drosophila. Here, stem cell pools and their niche environment consist of relatively small numbers of cells, and questions concerning the pattern of cell division, niche-stem cell contacts, or differentiation can be addressed at the single cell level. Likewise, it is possible to analyze the emergence of stem cells during development more easily than in vertebrate systems: where in the embryo do stem cells arise, what structures in their environment do they interact with, and what signaling pathways are active sequentially as a result of these interactions. Given the high degree of conservation among genetic mechanisms controlling stem cell behavior in all animals, findings in Drosophila will provide answers that inform research in the vertebrate stem cell field.