The replicative histone chaperone CAF-1 is essential for the maintenance of identity and genome integrity in adult stem cells

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Marie Clémot, Anahi Molla-Herman, Juliette Mathieu, Jean-René Huynh, Nathalie Dostatni

Chromatin packaging and modifications are important to define the identity of stem cells. How chromatin properties are retained over multiple cycles of stem cell replication, while generating differentiating progeny at the same time, remains a challenging question. The chromatin assembly factor CAF-1 is a conserved histone chaperone, which assembles histones H3 and H4 onto newly synthesized DNA during replication and repair. Here, we investigated the role of CAF-1 in the maintenance of germline stem cells (GSCs) in Drosophila ovaries. We depleted P180, the large subunit of CAF-1, in germ cells and found that it was required in GSCs to maintain their identity. In the absence of P180, GSCs still harbor stem cell properties but concomitantly express markers of differentiation. In addition, P180-depleted germ cells exhibit elevated levels of DNA damage and de-repression of the transposable I-element. These DNA damages activate p53- and Chk2-dependent checkpoints pathways, leading to cell death and female sterility. Altogether, our work demonstrates that chromatin dynamics mediated by CAF-1 play an important role in both the regulation of stem cell identity and genome integrity.