Gap junctions coordinate processes ranging from muscle contraction to ovarian follicle development. Here we show that the gap junction protein Zero population growth (Zpg) is required for germ cell differentiation in the Drosophila ovary. In the absence of Zpg the stem cell daughter destined to differentiate dies. The zpg phenotype is novel, and we used this phenotype to genetically dissect the process of stem cell maintenance and differentiation. Our findings suggest that germ line stem cells differentiate upon losing contact with their niche, that gap junction mediated cell-cell interactions are required for germ cell differentiation, and that in Drosophila germ line stem cell differentiation to a cystoblast is gradual.
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