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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2010 Jan 26;107(4):1414-9. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0909207107. Epub 2010 Jan 4.

Evidence of an epithelial stem/progenitor cell hierarchy in the adult mouse lung.

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  • 1Australian Stem Cell Centre, Clayton, Victoria 3800, Australia.


The role of lung epithelial stem cells in maintenance and repair of the adult lung is ill-defined, and their identity remains contentious because of the lack of definitive markers for their prospective isolation and the absence of clonogenic assays able to measure their stem/progenitor cell potential. In this study, we show that replication of epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in a previously undescribed matrigel-based clonogenic assay enables the identification of lung epithelial stem/progenitor cells by their colony-forming potential in vitro. We describe a population of EpCAM(hi) CD49f(pos) CD104(pos) CD24(low) epithelial cfus that generate colonies comprising airway, alveolar, or mixed lung epithelial cell lineages when cocultured with EpCAM(neg) Sca-1(pos) lung mesenchymal cells. We show that soluble fibroblast growth factor-10 and hepatocyte growth factor partially replace the requirement for mesenchymal support of epithelial colony formation, allowing clonal passaging and demonstration of their capacity for self-renewal. These data support a model in which the adult mouse lung contains a minor population of multipotent epithelial stem/progenitor cells with the capacity for self-renewal and whose descendants give rise to airway and alveolar epithelial cell lineages in vitro.

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