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Kun-Yang Lin, Wen-Der Wang, Chi-Hung Lin, Elham Rastegari, Yu-Han Su, Yu-Tzu Chang, Yung-Feng Liao, Yi-Chieh Chang, Haiwei Pi, Bo-Yi Yu, Shu-Hwa Chen, Chung-Yen Lin, Mei-Yeh Lu, Tsu-Yi Su, Fei-Yang Tzou, Chih-Chiang Chan & Hwei-Jan Hsu (2020) Piwi reduction in the aged niche eliminates germline stem cells via Toll-GSK3 signaling. Nature Communications 11, Article number: 3147


Transposons are known to participate in tissue aging, but their effects on aged stem cells remain unclear. Here, we report that in the Drosophila ovarian germline stem cell (GSC) niche, aging-related reductions in expression of Piwi (a transposon silencer) derepress retrotransposons and cause GSC loss. Suppression of Piwi expression in the young niche mimics the aged niche, causing retrotransposon depression and coincident activation of Toll-mediated signaling, which promotes Glycogen synthase kinase 3 activity to degrade β-catenin. Disruption of β-catenin-E-cadherin-mediated GSC anchorage then results in GSC loss. Knocking down gypsy (a highly active retrotransposon) or toll, or inhibiting reverse transcription in the piwi-deficient niche, suppresses GSK3 activity and β-catenin degradation, restoring GSC-niche attachment. This retrotransposon-mediated impairment of aged stem cell maintenance may have relevance in many tissues, and could represent a viable therapeutic target for aging-related tissue degeneration.