Germline stem cell maintenance and development
The Hobbs group uses germline stem/progenitor cells from the mouse testis as a model system to define critical mechanisms underlying adult stem cell function. Maintenance of a wide array of adult tissues is dependent on a resident population of rare stem cells that must self-renew plus generate differentiating daughter cells. The appropriate control of stem cell self-renewal and differentiation is critical for tissue homeostasis while disruption of the balance between these processes can contribute to tissue degeneration or cancer. In adult testis, there is a population of germline stem/progenitor cells (known as spermatogonial stem and progenitor cells or SSPCs) that are required for life-long production of differentiating germ cells and spermatozoa.
A handful of cell intrinsic factors are known to be involved in SSPC maintenance, foremost amongst which is the transcription factor Promyelocytic Leukemia Zinc Finger (Plzf). A major focus of the group is to define downstream targets of Plzf in SSPCs and their role in SSPC function. This is achieved by using a combination of mouse genetics, flow cytometry analysis and in vitro culture techniques.
The principal aim of this research is to identify and characterize novel molecular mechanisms underlying adult stem cell function.