Todd Nystul, PhD

TitleAssociate Professor
InstitutionUniversity of California San Francisco
Address513 Parnassus Ave
San Francisco CA 94143
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    The follicular epithelium in the Drosophila ovary is an ideal model for the study of epithelial biology. It possesses many classical epithelial features, such as a columnar cell shape, apical/basal polarity, and canonical cell adhesion complexes, and yet is a relatively simple tissue and is highly tractable for molecular and cell biological analysis. Combined with the powerful genetic tools available in Drosophila, this allows us to address questions in epithelial stem cell and tissue biology with single-cell resolution in the natural, in vivo context.

    Major Goals: Our laboratory uses the Drosophila ovary as a model for studying the fundamental properties of epithelial stem cells, their associated niche, and the connection between epithelial stem cells and cancer. We are interested in questions such as:

    1. How is stem cell fate maintained within a dynamic epithelial tissue?
    2. What is the nature of the epithelial stem cell niche?
    3. What is the role of epithelial stem cells in normal reproductive physiology?
    4. Do stem cell defects underlie epithelial cancers and what can studies of epithelial stem cells teach us about the earliest steps in cancer formation?

    Ongoing research:

    Identifying Stem Cells and their Niche

    Although adult stem cells are believed to reside in distinct microenvironments, or niches, that function to regulate stem cell behavior, niches have been hard to study because of the difficulty of precisely identifying the stem cells in most tissues. However, we have developed a set of criteria that facilitates reliable identification of the epithelial follicle stem cells (FSCs) in the Drosophila ovary and we are now mapping their interactions with neighboring cells to better understand the nature of the FSC niche. Surprisingly, we have found that the FSC niche appears much more dynamic than the few previously characterized niches. We are using lineage analysis to follow FSC behavior, track the patterns of FSC daughter cell migration and differentiation, and investigate relevant gene function.

    Epithelial Stem Cell Genetics

    The wnt/wingless, hedgehog, BMP and Notch signaling pathways are all important for FSC function and early epithelial development but little is known about where in the process these signals exert their effects or how they are coordinated to produce a functional, healthy epithelium. We are investigating the function of key signaling components at specific steps in early follicle formation to map the contributions of these pathways to FSC function and follicle formation. In addition, we are interested in the role that misregulation of signaling in the ovarian epithelial cells plays in ovarian cancer. We are now investigating the interaction between the wnt pathway and other putative ovarian cancer genes in follicle cells as well as screening for markers that identify pre-tumorous cells to better understand the early steps leading to hyperplasia. Through collaboration with our colleagues in the Center for Reproductive Sciences, we will be able to test whether gene interactions and markers that we identify in the fly ovary will also be present in mammalian model systems and human tissues. To identify additional genes that are required for proper FSC function, we screened through a collection of over 600 lines bearing lethal mutations. We have identified several mutants with a follicle stem cell phenotype including ones that accelerate the rate of stem cell loss; confer a “hyper-competitive” stem cell replacement phenotype; and/or cause over-proliferation, perhaps modeling a precancerous state.

    Epithelial Stem Cells and Oogenesis Oogenesis is well conserved from flies to mammals and studies of the Drosophila ovary have provided valuable insight into the process of female reproduction. Our work on the characterization of the follicle stem cells and their associated niche provides an opportunity to use the fly ovary as a model of follicle formation. By studying the lineage just downstream of the FSCs, we found that FSCs produce “pre-follicle cells” that are developmental intermediates between the FSCs and the polarized epithelium. Follicle formation begins when a newly formed germline cyst moves past the FSC niche and contacts these pre-follicle cells. We found that a Delta signal from the germline activates Notch in some pre-follicle cells, inducing them to migrate along the anterior fact of the cyst toward the opposite niche. Other pre-follicle cells that do not receive the signal instead migrate away from the niche toward the posterior, directly into the polarized epithelium. We are now studying how these and other cellular events lead to the formation of a new follicle during normal oogenesis.

    Collapse Research 
    Collapse Research Activities and Funding
    Regulation of Epithelial Plasticity
    NIH/NIGMS R01GM116384Jul 1, 2015 - Jun 30, 2019
    Role: Co-Principal Investigator
    Models for studying of the role of stem cell competition in field cancerization
    NIH/NCI R21CA164404Mar 1, 2012 - Feb 28, 2014
    Role: Principal Investigator
    Modeling epithelial stem cell competition in a dynamic drosophila ovarian niche
    NIH/NIGMS R01GM097158Jul 1, 2011 - Jun 30, 2020
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Collapse Bibliographic 
    Collapse Publications
    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Researchers can login to make corrections and additions, or contact us for help.
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    1. Tatapudy S, Aloisio F, Barber D, Nystul T. Cell fate decisions: emerging roles for metabolic signals and cell morphology. EMBO Rep. 2017 Dec; 18(12):2105-2118. PMID: 29158350.
      View in: PubMed
    2. Tatapudy S, Benitez M, Nystul T. Methods for Imaging Intracellular pH of the Follicle Stem Cell Lineage in Live Drosophila Ovarian Tissue. J Vis Exp. 2017 Sep 26; (127). PMID: 28994781.
      View in: PubMed
    3. Cook MS, Cazin C, Amoyel M, Yamamoto S, Bach E, Nystul T. Neutral Competition for Drosophila Follicle and Cyst Stem Cell Niches Requires Vesicle Trafficking Genes. Genetics. 2017 07; 206(3):1417-1428. PMID: 28512187.
      View in: PubMed
    4. Johnston MJ, Bar-Cohen S, Paroush Z, Nystul T. Phosphorylated Groucho delays differentiation in the follicle stem cell lineage by providing a molecular memory of EGFR signaling in the niche. Development. 2016 12 15; 143(24):4631-4642. PMID: 27836963.
      View in: PubMed
    5. Ulmschneider B, Grillo-Hill BK, Benitez M, Azimova DR, Barber DL, Nystul T. Increased intracellular pH is necessary for adult epithelial and embryonic stem cell differentiation. J Cell Biol. 2016 Nov 07; 215(3):345-355. PMID: 27821494.
      View in: PubMed
    6. Vlachos S, Jangam S, Conder R, Chou M, Nystul T, Harden N. A Pak-regulated cell intercalation event leading to a novel radial cell polarity is involved in positioning of the follicle stem cell niche in the Drosophila ovary. Development. 2015 Jan 01; 142(1):82-91. PMID: 25516970.
      View in: PubMed
    7. Castanieto A, Johnston MJ, Nystul T. EGFR signaling promotes self-renewal through the establishment of cell polarity in Drosophila follicle stem cells. Elife. 2014 Dec 01; 3. PMID: 25437306; PMCID: PMC4298699.
    8. Huang P, Sahai-Hernandez P, Bohm RA, Welch WP, Zhang B, Nystul T. Enhancer-trap flippase lines for clonal analysis in the Drosophila ovary. G3 (Bethesda). 2014 Jul 14; 4(9):1693-9. PMID: 25024257; PMCID: PMC4169162.
    9. Kronen MR, Schoenfelder KP, Klein AM, Nystul T. Basolateral junction proteins regulate competition for the follicle stem cell niche in the Drosophila ovary. PLoS One. 2014; 9(7):e101085. PMID: 24991805; PMCID: PMC4084627.
    10. Sahai-Hernandez P, Nystul T. A dynamic population of stromal cells contributes to the follicle stem cell niche in the Drosophila ovary. Development. 2013 Nov; 140(22):4490-8. PMID: 24131631; PMCID: PMC3817939.
    11. Sahai-Hernandez P, Castanieto A, Nystul T. Drosophila models of epithelial stem cells and their niches. Wiley Interdiscip Rev Dev Biol. 2012 May-Jun; 1(3):447-57. PMID: 23801493; PMCID: PMC4924536.
    12. Nystul T, Spradling A. Regulation of epithelial stem cell replacement and follicle formation in the Drosophila ovary. Genetics. 2010 Feb; 184(2):503-15. PMID: 19948890; PMCID: PMC2828728.
    13. Spradling AC, Nystul T, Lighthouse D, Morris L, Fox D, Cox R, Tootle T, Frederick R, Skora A. Stem cells and their niches: integrated units that maintain Drosophila tissues. Cold Spring Harb Symp Quant Biol. 2008; 73:49-57. PMID: 19022764.
      View in: PubMed
    14. Nystul T, Spradling A. An epithelial niche in the Drosophila ovary undergoes long-range stem cell replacement. Cell Stem Cell. 2007 Sep 13; 1(3):277-85. PMID: 18371362.
      View in: PubMed
    15. Buszczak M, Paterno S, Lighthouse D, Bachman J, Planck J, Owen S, Skora AD, Nystul T, Ohlstein B, Allen A, Wilhelm JE, Murphy TD, Levis RW, Matunis E, Srivali N, Hoskins RA, Spradling AC. The carnegie protein trap library: a versatile tool for Drosophila developmental studies. Genetics. 2007 Mar; 175(3):1505-31. PMID: 17194782; PMCID: PMC1840051.
    16. Nystul T, Spradling AC. Breaking out of the mold: diversity within adult stem cells and their niches. Curr Opin Genet Dev. 2006 Oct; 16(5):463-8. PMID: 16919446.
      View in: PubMed
    17. Roth MB, Nystul T. Buying time in suspended animation. Sci Am. 2005 Jun; 292(6):48-55. PMID: 15934652.
      View in: PubMed
    18. Nystul T, Roth MB. Carbon monoxide-induced suspended animation protects against hypoxic damage in Caenorhabditis elegans. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2004 Jun 15; 101(24):9133-6. PMID: 15184665; PMCID: PMC428485.
    19. Nystul T, Goldmark JP, Padilla PA, Roth MB. Suspended animation in C. elegans requires the spindle checkpoint. Science. 2003 Nov 07; 302(5647):1038-41. PMID: 14605367.
      View in: PubMed
    20. Padilla PA, Nystul T, Zager RA, Johnson AC, Roth MB. Dephosphorylation of cell cycle-regulated proteins correlates with anoxia-induced suspended animation in Caenorhabditis elegans. Mol Biol Cell. 2002 May; 13(5):1473-83. PMID: 12006646; PMCID: PMC111120.
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