The International Journal of Developmental Biology

Int. J. Dev. Biol. 56: 499 - 508 (2012)

Vol 56, Issue 6-7-8

Special Issue: The Hydra Model System

Germline stem cells and sex determination in Hydra

Published: 8 June 2012

Chiemi Nishimiya-Fujisawa* and Satoru Kobayashi

Okazaki Institute for Integrative Bioscience, National Institute for Basic Biology, National Institutes of Natural Sciences, Myodaiji, Okazaki, Japan


The sex of germline stem cells (GSCs) in Hydra is determined in a cell-autonomous manner. In gonochoristic species like Hydra magnipapillata or H. oligactis, where the sexes are separate, male polyps have sperm-restricted stem cells (SpSCs), while females have egg-restricted stem cells (EgSCs). These GSCs self-renew in a polyp, and are usually transmitted to a new bud from a parental polyp during asexual reproduction. But if these GSCs are lost during subsequent budding or regeneration events, new ones are generated from multipotent stem cells (MPSCs). MPSCs are the somatic stem cells in Hydra that ordinarily differentiate into nerve cells, nematocytes (stinging cells in cnidarians), and gland cells. By means of such a backup system, sexual reproduction is guaranteed for every polyp. Interestingly, Hydra polyps occasionally undergo sex-reversal. This implies that each polyp can produce either type of GSCs, i.e. Hydra are genetically hermaphroditic. Nevertheless a polyp possesses only one type of GSCs at a time. We propose a plausible model for sex-reversal in Hydra. We also discuss so-called germline specific genes, which are expressed in both GSCs and MPSCs, and some future plans to investigate Hydra GSCs.


germline stem cell, multipotent stem cell, sex determination, Hydra, nanos, vasa, piwi

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