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Estrogen receptor stem cells found in mammary glands.

BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 16, 2017 -- One of the key questions in stem cell and cancer biology is to understand the cellular hierarchy governing tissue development and maintenance and the cancer cell of origin.

In a study conducted at the Universite libre de Bruxelles, researchers identified a novel lineage-restricted stem cell in the mammary gland.

The mammary gland comprises two main cellular subtypes: the basal cells and luminal cells.

While luminal cells secrete water and nutriments to produce the milk during lactation, the basal cells, through their contraction, guide the circulation of the milk throughout the ductal tree.

Luminal cells can be subdivided into estrogen (ER)/progesterone (PR) positive and negative cells.

The researchers generated a new transgenic line-allowing lineage tracing of ER+ luminal cells to investigate luminal cell heterogeneity and identify the origin of ER+ luminal cells and the mechanisms regulating their pubertal expansion and adult maintenance.

Surprisingly, and in sharp contrast with the common thought, which hypothesized the existence of a population of common progenitors that give rise to ER+ and ER-cells, they found that the ER+ lineage is maintained by a lineage restricted ER+ luminal stem cells, able to ensure ER+ lineage expansion during pubertal development, and long-term renewing capacities of ER+ lineage in adult mice during cycle of pregnancy-involution.

The new data challenge the current model of the cellular hierarchy and lineage restriction that governs the mammary gland expansion and maintenance and provide clear evidence that the ER+ and ER- cells are maintained by distinct pool of lineage restricted stem cells.

The findings are important for researchers working in the field of stem cells, mammary gland and breast cancer, by providing a new paradigm in these fields.

The model will be used to assess whether the clinical heterogeneity observed in breast cancers arises from their different cancer cell of origin.

Citation: Alexandra Van Keymeulen et al., "Lineage-Restricted Mammary Stem Cells Sustain the Development, Homeostasis, and Regeneration of the Estrogen Receptor Positive Lineage," Cell Reports, 2017; 20 (7): 1525 DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2017.07.066


Contact: Cedric Blanpain,

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Title Annotation:Basic Research
Publication:Stem Cell Research News
Geographic Code:4EUBL
Date:Sep 11, 2017
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