Vertebrate haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) give rise to a hierarchically organised set of progenitors for erythroid, myeloid, lymphoid and megakaryocyte lineages, and are responsible for lifelong maintenance of the blood system. Dysregulation of the haematopoietic differentiation programme is at the origin of numerous pathologies, including leukaemias. With the discoveries that many transcriptional regulators and signalling pathways controlling blood cell development are conserved between humans and Drosophila melanogaster, the fruit fly has become a good model for investigating the mechanisms underlying the generation of blood cell lineages and blood cell homeostasis. In this review article, we discuss how genetic and molecular studies of Drosophila haematopoiesis can contribute to our understanding of the haematopoietic niche, as well as of the origin and/or progression of haematopoietic malignancies in humans.
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