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Science. 2011 Dec 9;334(6061):1420-4. doi: 10.1126/science.1213214. Epub 2011 Nov 10.

Interconversion between intestinal stem cell populations in distinct niches.

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Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104, USA.


Intestinal epithelial stem cell identity and location have been the subject of substantial research. Cells in the +4 niche are slow-cycling and label-retaining, whereas a different stem cell niche located at the crypt base is occupied by crypt base columnar (CBC) cells. CBCs are distinct from +4 cells, and the relationship between them is unknown, though both give rise to all intestinal epithelial lineages. We demonstrate that Hopx, an atypical homeobox protein, is a specific marker of +4 cells. Hopx-expressing cells give rise to CBCs and all mature intestinal epithelial lineages. Conversely, CBCs can give rise to +4 Hopx-positive cells. These findings demonstrate a bidirectional lineage relationship between active and quiescent stem cells in their niches.

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