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Am J Pathol. 1992 Oct;141(4):773-6.

A stem cell niche theory of intestinal crypt maintenance based on a study of somatic mutation in colonic mucosa.

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Department of Pathology, University of Wales College of Medicine, Cardiff, United Kingdom.


In both large and small intestine, mutagen administration leads to the occurrence of isolated crypts that are completely populated by a mutated phenotype; therefore, it has been proposed that crypts are maintained by a single stem cell. We show in mice that a single dose of mutagen leads to an early transient increase in frequency of colonic crypts that show a partial mutated phenotype and a later increase in frequency of crypts that show a complete mutated phenotype. This increase reaches a plateau at about the same time as the disappearance of partially mutated crypts. The same is true in the small intestine, but the time course is much slower. We propose an explanation based on multiple crypt stem cells that occupy a "stem cell niche," with random cell loss after stem cell division. A small difference in the number of crypt stem cells that occupy the niche provides a simple explanation for the surprisingly large difference in the time course of phenotypic changes in the large and small intestines after administration of a single dose of mutagen.

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