AMPK regulates germline stem cell quiescence and integrity through an endogenous small RNA pathway

by Pratik Kadekar, Richard Roy

During suboptimal growth conditions, Caenorhabditis elegans larvae undergo a global developmental arrest called “dauer.” During this stage, the germline stem cells (GSCs) become quiescent in an AMP-activated Protein Kinase (AMPK)-dependent manner, and in the absence of AMPK, the GSCs overproliferate and lose their reproductive capacity, leading to sterility when mutant animals resume normal growth. These defects correlate with the altered abundance and distribution of a number of chromatin modifications, all of which can be corrected by disabling components of the endogenous small RNA pathway, suggesting that AMPK regulates germ cell integrity by targeting an RNA interference (RNAi)-like pathway during dauer. The expression of AMPK in somatic cells restores all the germline defects, potentially through the transmission of small RNAs. Our findings place AMPK at a pivotal position linking energy stress detected in the soma to a consequent endogenous small RNA–mediated adaptation in germline gene expression, thereby challenging the “permeability” of the Weismann barrier.

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