Stem cells are essential for the maintenance and renewal of our tissues by dividing through the entire life of the organisms, replacing damaged cells and maintaining the organ function. One of their key characteristics is their plasticity when responding to environmental cues and the internal state of the organism. As an example, the nutritional status of an animal can modulate the stem cell number and proliferation in many diverse tissues. However, many questions remain unanswered, as if the stem cells can in turn communicate their status and needs to the rest of the organism, and how this bidirectional communication can optimize certain body functions. An example of this is the reproduction, where gonadal stem cells produce gametes (eggs and sperm) but also physiological preparedness and triggering specific behaviors (like receptiveness and courtshipping) are required. How the internal status of the animal and the social cues affect gametogenesis? Can the status of the gonadal stem cells modulate in turn the reproductive behavior of the animal?
Our goal is demonstrating the existence of a coordination between spermatogenesis, physiology and behavior in males, as well as studying its cellular, genetic and neuronal basis. For this study we are using the fruit fly Drosophila, where its gonads represent on of the best models used for stem cell research. Specifically, we aim to identify: 1) the signals produced by the stem cells of the testis capable of modulating the behavior and physiology of the males; and 2) the mechanisms by which the social interactions with females and other males control the sperm production. For these goals, in our lab we are using a variety of techniques, including genetic analysis, confocal microscopy, proteomic assays, optogenetics and AI-driven observation and analysis of the fly behavior.