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Front Oral Biol. 2010;14:90-106. doi: 10.1159/000313709. Epub 2010 Apr 20.

Epithelial stem/progenitor cells in the embryonic mouse submandibular gland.

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National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Salivary gland organogenesis involves the specification, maintenance, lineage commitment, and differentiation of epithelial stem/progenitor cells. Identifying how stem/progenitor cells are directed along a series of cell fate decisions to form a functional salivary gland will be necessary for future stem cell regenerative therapy. The identification of stem/progenitor cells within the salivary gland has focused on their role in postnatal glands and little is known about them in embryonic glands. Here, we have reviewed the information available for other developing organ systems and used it to determine whether similar cell populations exist in the mouse submandibular gland. Additionally, using growth factors that influence salivary gland epithelial morphogenesis during development, we have taken a simple experimental approach asking whether any of these growth factors influence early developmental lineages within the salivary epithelium on a transcriptional level. These preliminary findings show that salivary epithelial stem/progenitor populations exist within the gland, and that growth factors that are reported to control epithelial morphogenesis may also impact cell fate decisions. Further investigation of the signaling networks that influence stem/progenitor cell behavior will allow us to hypothesize how we might induce autologous stem cells to regenerate damaged salivary tissue in a therapeutic context.

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