Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Dr. Douglas Harrison


Cell signaling is central to integration of internal and external cues that regulate development and homeostasis. Most development is thought of as pre-adult, but limited developmental processes occur in adults. Gametogenesis incorporates elements of both these facets, with a distinct developmental plan for gamete synthesis which is regulated by integration of homeostatic inputs such as nutrient status, and environmental cues. Signaling pathways integrate and transduce information from these cues to evoke a response. A decline in homeostasis and subsequent cues occurs over time, in the case of reproductive tissues leading to a progressive loss of fertility. The Janus Kinase and Signal Transducer and Activator of Transcription or Jak/Stat signaling pathway is conserved between vertebrates and invertebrates and is necessary for numerous functions needed to maintain organism and reproductive homeostasis, as well as contributing to various developmental events. The pathway in the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, is composed of a single receptor, Domeless, one Janus kinase, Hopscotch, one known effector, Stat92E, and the Unpaired family of ligands consisting of Upd, Upd2, and Upd3. Jak/Stat signaling is highly pleiotropic in both sexes with involvement in homeostasis and reproduction, making it an ideal model for studying the role of signaling in reproductive aging. Reduction of pathway activity in females results in a higher proportion of unfertilized eggs, which increases with age, and in males leads to a premature onset of infertility. Central to both is integration through cell signaling to evoke an appropriate response. This dissertation explores two of the requirements for Jak/Stat signaling: the pleiotropic requirement for Jak/Stat activity during oogenesis and male reproductive maintenance.

Jak/Stat functions from the beginning of oogenesis, in the stem cell niche. From there it participates in multiple functions including specification of a subset of somatic cells called the border cells through the polar cells, a pair of cells at either pole of the egg. Pathway stimulation in the border cells drives their migration with the polar cells to the oocyte boundary, where the polar cells each form an extension in a coordinated manner into the micropyle, the means for sperm entrance during fertilization. Loss of Jak/Stat activity in the border cells prevents border cell migration. While border cell migration has been well studied, polar cell involvement after completion of border cell migration is less well known. To investigate the requirements for polar cell activity and Jak/Stat activity after the completion of border cell migration, we reduced Jak/Stat signaling in the polar cells which, while having no effect on border cell migration, results in blocked micropyles due to loss of coordination of extensions during their outgrowth. Reduced function in the polar cells did not significantly affect expression of adhesion molecules. But, the loss of Stat92E is phenocopied by loss of DE-cadherin. Hence, these results indicate a previously unknown autocrine requirement for Jak/Stat activity in the polar cells.

The testes also have a continuous requirement for Jak/Stat activity for stem cell maintenance and differentiation of the germline into mature sperm. Reproductive maintenance not only requires sustained production of gametes, but reproductive tissues are also subject to deterioration of homeostatic functions that contribute to organismal aging. Males from thirty-nine lines of the Drosophila Genetic Reference Panel (DGRP), a panel of inbred, fully sequenced lines, were screened for age at infertility. Data were used to perform a genome-wide association study (GWAS) to identify the genetic architecture of reproductive aging. Candidate variants associated with cell signaling regulators, genes with functions in maintaining cell homeostasis, and organism behavior were uncovered. Notably, several SNPs fell in and near Ptp61F, a negative regulator of Jak/Stat activity. While variants in the primary components of the Jak/Stat pathway were not identified, the general classes of candidate loci functions reflect the requirements for homeostasis, metabolism, and development that have been shown by other studies examining the genetics of aging and fecundity. Thus, we show that Jak/Stat has an amazing amount of pleiotropy that encompasses both the real-time functions of fertility and the time related process of aging.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)