Turning them on, turning them off—how to control stem cells

February 28, 2019, University of Bath

Scientists at the University of Bath have identified how a mutant gene in fish is involved in controlling stem cells.

A new study from the group of Professor Robert Kelsh in the Department of Biology & Biochemistry looks at how a novel group of stem are controlled by mutations in a gene called parade.

They identified a new set of stem cells in zebrafish, which eventually become skin pigment cells of different colours.

Populations of pigment stem cells are formed in the embryonic stages of development, but are then dormant and don't mature into a final cell type until adulthood. This development is controlled by a range of factors called the "stem cell niche—including surrounding , and signals from nerves.

In parade mutants the zebrafish show large numbers of abnormally positioned pigment cells near the main , lined up 'like soldiers on parade'.

The Bath team's work demonstrates that these pigment cells derive from this newly-discovered population of stem cells, which in the parade mutants become activated long before normal. Their research also showed that the key problem in parade mutant lies in the blood vessels, indicating that the blood vessels form a crucial part of the niche controlling this group of stem cells.

Prof. Kelsh said: "This is the first time that blood vessels have been shown to help control pigment stem cells, although they are a widespread feature of other stem cell niches. We expect that some of the factors controlling these pigment stem cells will be shared with other stem cell niches."

Karen Camargo-Sosa, the lead author whose Ph.D. thesis work contributed to this paper, added: "Our research has shown that the parade gene must regulate the signals controlling the division of adult pigment stem cells; this is the first time the parade gene has been implicated in stem cell regulation."

The group is now poised to explore how these features of the stem cell niche control their behaviour, identifying which chemical signals from the blood vessels hold the in an inactive state, and which drive them to metamorphose—what turns them off, and what turns them on.

Explore further: Researchers use 3-D technology to identify optimal stem cells for transplantation

More information: Karen Camargo-Sosa et al, Endothelin receptor Aa regulates proliferation and differentiation of Erb-dependent pigment progenitors in zebrafish, PLOS Genetics (2019). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1007941

Related Stories

Structure of a stem cell niche

March 1, 2018

Stem cells—specialized cells that can self-renew and generate functional cells—maintain adult tissues. They reside in a specialized microenvironment, known as a niche, that regulates their self-renewal and activities. ...

Why we make blood cells in our bones

June 13, 2018

In humans and other mammals, the stem cells that give rise to all blood cells are located in the bone. But in fish, blood stem cells are found in the kidney. Since the late 1970s, when biologists first realized that blood ...

It's all about the (stem cell) neighborhood

April 9, 2018

Stem cells have the ability to develop, or differentiate, into the many cell types in the body. They also serve as a repair system to replace aged or damaged cells. With their regenerative abilities, stem cells offer enormous ...

How to make fish shine

October 10, 2018

Scientists from the University of Bath have helped to figure out why shoals of fish flash silver as they twist through the water by studying how the shiny silver cells are created in zebrafish.

Some blood stem cells are better than others

May 30, 2018

In your body, blood stem cells produce approximately 10 billion new white blood cells, which are also known as immune cells, each and every day. Even more remarkably, if some of these blood stem cells fail to do their part, ...

Recommended for you

Coffee-based colloids for direct solar absorption

March 22, 2019

Solar energy is one of the most promising resources to help reduce fossil fuel consumption and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions to power a sustainable future. Devices presently in use to convert solar energy into thermal ...

NASA instruments image fireball over Bering Sea

March 22, 2019

On Dec. 18, 2018, a large "fireball—the term used for exceptionally bright meteors that are visible over a wide area—exploded about 16 miles (26 kilometers) above the Bering Sea. The explosion unleashed an estimated 173 ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.