The germline is segregated from the remainder of the soma during early embryonic development in metazoan species. In Drosophila, female primordial germ cells (PGCs) continue to proliferate during larval development, and become germline stem cells at the early pupal stage. To elucidate the roles of growth factors in larval PGC division, we examined expression patterns of a bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) growth factor, Decapentaplegic (Dpp), and Hedgehog (Hh), along with factors downstream of each, in the ovary during larval development. Dpp signaling appeared in the ovarian soma from early larval development, and was prominent in the terminal filament cells at late larval stage, whereas Hh appeared in the ovarian soma and PGCs from the third instar larval stage. The number of PGCs decreased when components of these signal transduction pathways were abrogated by RNAi in the PGCs, indicating that both Dpp and Hh signals directly regulate PGC proliferation. Experiments on the up- and down-regulation of Dpp and Hh with a tissue-specific Gal4 driver indicated that Dpp and Hh act as extrinsic and autocrine growth factors. Furthermore, heat-pulse experiments with hs-Gal4 showed that Dpp is active in PGC proliferation throughout larval development, whereas Hh has effects only during late larval development. In addition to Dpp, the reduction of Glass bottom boat (Gbb), another BMP molecule, caused a decrease in the number of PGCs and initiation of larval PGCs differentiation into cystocytes, indicating that Gbb functions to promote PGC division and repress differentiation.
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