TU Dresden


Stem Cell Niches in Drosophila - Christian Bökel

Stem cell niches are regions where the local signaling microenvironment allows cells to adopt and maintain a stem cell fate. Using the germline stem cell niche of the Drosophila gonad as an experimental system we would like to understand how communication between niche and stem cells or between different stem cell populations regulates stem cell maintenance and proliferation. In parallel we are interested in the cell biological basis of the different niche signaling pathways.

To address these questions we combine Drosophila genetics with cutting edge genome editing techniques, and use in vivo genomics approaches to identify the key players in stem cell regulation. In addition, we develop genetically encoded reporters that allow us to track the activation state of different signal transduction proteins with subcellular resolution. Finally, we employ microscopy based biophysical techniques and mathematical modelling to quantitatively understand pathway activation.

Previous and current research

Stem cells are essential for tissue formation during development, and allow tissue maintenance and repair during the adult life of an organism. However, stem cell identity, survival, and activity are not intrinsic properties that stem cells possess once they are specified. Instead, these properties are in many cases induced and maintained by a local signaling microenvironment termed niche. more

Future projects and goals

Stem cells are at the core of the expanding field of regenerative medicine. However, our culture conditions still fail to mimic the conditions under which stem cells thrive in their natural environment. Understanding how a model stem cell niche works at the molecular and tissue level will therefore be of interest beyond the field of fly developmental biology, especially as the same signaling cascades have been implicated in regulating e.g. human bone marrow and neuronal stem cells. more

Group leader

Selected publications

Kurgonaite K, Gandhi H, Kurth T, Pautot S, Schwille P, Weidemann T, Bökel C. J Cell Sci (2015), in press. Essential role of endocytosis for Interleukin-4 receptor mediated JAK/STAT signalling.
Gandhi H, Kurgonaite K, Worch R, Hintersteiner M, Schwille P, Bökel C, Weidemann T. (2014) Dynamics and interaction of IL-4 receptor subunits in living cells. Biophys J 107 (11):2515-27.  IF 4.4

Kupinski AP, Raabe I, Michel M, Ail D, Brusch L, Weidemann T, and Bökel C. (2013) Visualizing Smoothened phosphorylation and clustering in vivo. J Cell Sci 126:4684-4697

Michel, M., Kupinski, A. P., Raabe, I. and  Bökel, C. (2012) 'Hh signalling is essential for somatic stem cell maintenance in the Drosophila testis niche', Development 139(15): 2663-9.

Michel, M., Raabe, I., Kupinski, A. P., Perez-Palencia, R. and  Bökel, C. (2011) 'Local BMP receptor activation at adherens junctions in the Drosophila germline stem cell niche', Nat Commun 2: 415.


Group Leader

Dr. Christian Bökel

Assistant to Group Leader

Sascha Wiemer
Phone:+49 (0) 351 458 8230


2012– 2015  Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Project Grant “Visualizing the molecular basis for stem cell niche function and Hh signal transduction”
2013– 2015  Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft Heisenberg Fellowship