Germline stem cells.

Document Type


Publication Date



Animals, Cell Differentiation, Cell Division, Cell Lineage, Drosophila, Female, Germ Cells, Male, Mammals, Models, Biological, Ovary, Stem Cells, Testis

JAX Source

Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol 2011 Nov 1; 3(11):a002642.




Sperm and egg production requires a robust stem cell system that balances self-renewal with differentiation. Self-renewal at the expense of differentiation can cause tumorigenesis, whereas differentiation at the expense of self-renewal can cause germ cell depletion and infertility. In most organisms, and sometimes in both sexes, germline stem cells (GSCs) often reside in a defined anatomical niche. Factors within the niche regulate a balance between GSC self-renewal and differentiation. Asymmetric division of the germline stem cell to form daughter cells with alternative fates is common. The exception to both these tendencies is the mammalian testis where there does not appear to be an obvious anatomical niche and where GSC homeostasis is likely accomplished by a stochastic balance of self-renewal and differentiation and not by regulated asymmetric cell division. Despite these apparent differences, GSCs in all organisms share many common mechanisms, although not necessarily molecules, to guarantee survival of the germline.