Loss of heparan sulfate in the niche leads to tumor-like germ cell growth in the Drosophila testis

Daniel C. Levings, Hiroshi Nakato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The stem cell niche normally prevents aberrant stem cell behaviors that lead to cancer formation. Recent studies suggest that some cancers are derived from endogenous populations of adult stem cells that have somehow escaped from normal control by the niche. However, the molecular mechanisms by which the niche retains stem cells locally and tightly controls their divisions are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that the presence of heparan sulfate (HS), a class glygo-saminoglycan chains, in the Drosophila germline stem cell niche prevents tumor formation in the testis. Loss of HS in the niche, called the hub, led to gross changes in the morphology of testes as well as the formation of both somatic and germline tumors. This loss of hub HS resulted in ectopic signaling events in the Jak/Stat pathway outside the niche. This ectopic Jak/Stat signaling disrupted normal somatic cell differentiation, leading to the formation of tumors. Our finding indicates a novel non-autonomous role for niche HS in ensuring the integrity of the niche and preventing tumor formation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-41
Number of pages10
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a research grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (R01GM115099).

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author 2017.


  • Drosophila
  • Germline stem cell niche
  • Germline tumor
  • Heparan sulfate
  • Jak-Stat signalling


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