Intestinal homeostasis is maintained by tightly controlled proliferation and differentiation of tissue-resident multipotent stem cells during aging and regeneration, which ensures organismal adaptation. Here we show that autophagy is required in Drosophila intestinal stem cells to sustain proliferation, and preserves the stem cell pool. Autophagy-deficient stem cells show elevated DNA damage and cell cycle arrest during aging, and are frequently eliminated via JNK-mediated apoptosis. Interestingly, loss of Chk2, a DNA damage-activated kinase that arrests the cell cycle and promotes DNA repair and apoptosis, leads to uncontrolled proliferation of intestinal stem cells regardless of their autophagy status. Chk2 accumulates in the nuclei of autophagy-deficient stem cells, raising the possibility that its activation may contribute to the effects of autophagy inhibition in intestinal stem cells. Our study reveals the crucial role of autophagy in preserving proper stem cell function for the continuous renewal of the intestinal epithelium in Drosophila.
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