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Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2008 Mar 7;367(2):256-63. Epub 2007 Dec 26.

Enrichment of corneal epithelial stem/progenitor cells using cell surface markers, integrin alpha6 and CD71.

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Department of Ophthalmology, Tohoku University School of Medicine, 1-1 Seiryomachi, Aoba-ku, Sendai, Miyagi, Japan.


Corneal epithelial stem cells are believed to reside in the basal layer of the limbal epithelium, but no definitive cell surface markers have been identified. For keratinocytes, stem/progenitor cells are known to be enriched by cell surface markers, integrin alpha(6) and CD71, as a minor subpopulation which shows high integrin alpha(6) and low CD71 expressions (alpha(6)(bri)/CD71(dim)). In the present study, we investigated the possibility that corneal epithelial stem cells can be enriched by integrin alpha(6) and CD71. The alpha(6)(bri)/CD71(dim) cells were separated by fluorescence-activated cell sorting, as a minor subpopulation of the limbal epithelial cells. They were enriched for relatively small cells, showing a higher clonogenic capacity and expression of stem cell markers, but a lower expression of differentiation markers, compared to other cell populations. The cells were localized immunohistochemically in the basal region of the limbal epithelium. These results indicate that the alpha(6)(bri)/CD71(dim) subpopulation enriched corneal epithelial stem cells.

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