Spatiotemporal coordination of stem cell commitment during epidermal homeostasis

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Science  17 Jun 2016:
Vol. 352, Issue 6292, pp. 1471-1474
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaf7012

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Tracking stem cell fate in time and space

After injury and during homeostasis, tissues rely on the balance of cell loss and renewal. Rompolas et al. visualized individual stem cells over their lifetime in the epidermis of live mice. Tracking stem cells over multiple generations revealed that tissue homeostasis in the mouse epidermis is not maintained by asymmetric cell division as previously thought, but through the coordination of sibling cell fate and lifetimes. Furthermore, differentiating stem cells reused the existing spatial organization of the epidermis.

Science, this issue p. 1471


Adult tissues replace lost cells via pools of stem cells. However, the mechanisms of cell self-renewal, commitment, and functional integration into the tissue remain unsolved. Using imaging techniques in live mice, we captured the lifetime of individual cells in the ear and paw epidermis. Our data suggest that epidermal stem cells have equal potential to either divide or directly differentiate. Tracking stem cells over multiple generations reveals that cell behavior is not coordinated between generations. However, sibling cell fate and lifetimes are coupled. We did not observe regulated asymmetric cell divisions. Lastly, we demonstrated that differentiating stem cells integrate into preexisting ordered spatial units of the epidermis. This study elucidates how a tissue is maintained by both temporal and spatial coordination of stem cell behaviors.

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