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Stem cell niche competition

Stem Cell Niche Competition

Epithelial stem cells are not immortal. Indeed, during normal adult homeostasis, epithelial stem cells are regularly lost from the tissue and replaced by other nearby cells.  The cause of stem cell loss and the basis for selection of a replacement cell is not fully understood, but it is now clear that one important mechanism involves competition for the stem cell niche.  [1], [2]

We found that the pattern of follicle stem cell loss and replacement in a wildtype Drosophila ovary can be described by a neutral competition model, and we have identified several mutations that cause non-neutral or “biased” competition, in which the mutant and wildtype stem cells are replaced at unequal rates. Some mutations cause the mutant stem cell to become more competitive for the niche than wildtype (hypercompetition) whereas other mutations cause the mutant stem cell to become less competitive than wildtype (hypocompetition). We are now using these mutants to understand the genetic basis of niche competition. Through collaborations, we are expanding the mathematical framework of the the stem cell niche competition model and extending our studies to the mouse intestinal epithelium.