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LSSS 2014-2015


Life Sciences Seminar Series


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Alex Gould

Division of Developmental Neurobiology, Medical Research Council National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK.

Coping with stress: adaptations of neural stem cells in Drosophila

Selected Publications

Multi-isotope imaging mass spectrometry quantifies stem cell division and metabolism.Steinhauser ML, Bailey AP, Senyo SE, Guillermier C, Perlstein TS, Gould AP, Lee RT, Lechene CP
Nature 2012 Jan 26; 481(7382):516-9


Mass spectrometry with stable isotope labels has been seminal in discovering the dynamic state of living matter, but is limited to bulk tissues or cells. We developed multi-isotope imaging mass spectrometry (MIMS) that allowed us to view and measure stable isotope incorporation with submicrometre resolution. Here we apply MIMS to diverse organisms, including Drosophila, mice and humans. We test the 'immortal strand hypothesis', which predicts that during asymmetric stem cell division chromosomes containing older template DNA are segregated to the daughter destined to remain a stem cell, thus insuring lifetime genetic stability. After labelling mice with (15)N-thymidine from gestation until post-natal week 8, we find no (15)N label retention by dividing small intestinal crypt cells after a four-week chase. In adult mice administered (15)N-thymidine pulse-chase, we find that proliferating crypt cells dilute the (15)N label, consistent with random strand segregation. We demonstrate the broad utility of MIMS with proof-of-principle studies of lipid turnover in Drosophila and translation to the human haematopoietic system. These studies show that MIMS provides high-resolution quantification of stable isotope labels that cannot be obtained using other techniques and that is broadly applicable to biological and medical research.

Anaplastic lymphoma kinase spares organ growth during nutrient restriction in Drosophila.Cheng LY, Bailey AP, Leevers SJ, Ragan TJ, Driscoll PC, Gould AP
Cell 2011 Aug 5; 146(3):435-47


Developing animals survive periods of starvation by protecting the growth of critical organs at the expense of other tissues. Here, we use Drosophila to explore the as yet unknown mechanisms regulating this privileged tissue growth. As in mammals, we observe in Drosophila that the CNS is more highly spared than other tissues during nutrient restriction (NR). We demonstrate that anaplastic lymphoma kinase (Alk) efficiently protects neural progenitor (neuroblast) growth against reductions in amino acids and insulin-like peptides during NR via two mechanisms. First, Alk suppresses the growth requirement for amino acid sensing via Slimfast/Rheb/TOR complex 1. And second, Alk, rather than insulin-like receptor, primarily activates PI3-kinase. Alk maintains PI3-kinase signaling during NR as its ligand, Jelly belly (Jeb), is constitutively expressed from a glial cell niche surrounding neuroblasts. Together, these findings identify a brain-sparing mechanism that shares some regulatory features with the starvation-resistant growth programs of mammalian tumors.

Fat cells reactivate quiescent neuroblasts via TOR and glial insulin relays in Drosophila.Sousa-Nunes R, Yee LL, Gould AP
Nature 2011 Mar 24; 471(7339):508-12


Many stem, progenitor and cancer cells undergo periods of mitotic quiescence from which they can be reactivated. The signals triggering entry into and exit from this reversible dormant state are not well understood. In the developing Drosophila central nervous system, multipotent self-renewing progenitors called neuroblasts undergo quiescence in a stereotypical spatiotemporal pattern. Entry into quiescence is regulated by Hox proteins and an internal neuroblast timer. Exit from quiescence (reactivation) is subject to a nutritional checkpoint requiring dietary amino acids. Organ co-cultures also implicate an unidentified signal from an adipose/hepatic-like tissue called the fat body. Here we provide in vivo evidence that Slimfast amino-acid sensing and Target of rapamycin (TOR) signalling activate a fat-body-derived signal (FDS) required for neuroblast reactivation. Downstream of this signal, Insulin-like receptor signalling and the Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)/TOR network are required in neuroblasts for exit from quiescence. We demonstrate that nutritionally regulated glial cells provide the source of Insulin-like peptides (ILPs) relevant for timely neuroblast reactivation but not for overall larval growth. Conversely, ILPs secreted into the haemolymph by median neurosecretory cells systemically control organismal size but do not reactivate neuroblasts. Drosophila thus contains two segregated ILP pools, one regulating proliferation within the central nervous system and the other controlling tissue growth systemically. Our findings support a model in which amino acids trigger the cell cycle re-entry of neural progenitors via a fat-body-glia-neuroblasts relay. This mechanism indicates that dietary nutrients and remote organs, as well as local niches, are key regulators of transitions in stem-cell behaviour.