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Cell Prolif. 1994 May;27(5):279-89.

Slowly cycling (label-retaining) epidermal cells behave like clonogenic stem cells in vitro.

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The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Smithville, USA.


Slowly cycling label-retaining epidermal cells were identified by light microscopic autoradiography in the dorsal epidermis and hair follicles of adult mice 8-10 weeks after twice daily injection of [3H]dT on days three through five after birth. Pulse-labelled epidermal cells were identified in the epidermis and hair follicles of 7-8 week old mice 1 h after a single injection of [3H]dT at 8.00 a.m. For mice of both groups, epidermal cells including those from the hair follicles were harvested by trypsinization and were cultured from low density on feeder layers of irradiated Swiss mouse 3T3. On days 2, 4, 5, 7, 10 and 12, the cultures were fixed and processed for light microscopic autoradiography, and the distribution of labelled nuclei was quantified. On day 2 of culture, both label-retaining cells (LRC) and pulse labelled cells (PLC) were found primarily as single cells. After five days, LRC were found as pairs and clusters having silver grain counts consistent with their division. In contrast, PLC remained primarily as single cells. These results suggest that LRC may divide to form colonies (are clonogenic) whereas PLC are rarely clonogenic. The significance of this experiment is that it suggests that the LRC may not only be persistent in the epidermis, but that they may also be cells with relatively greater proliferative potential than the PLC and are thus likely to be stem cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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