Stem cells hold the promise of novel therapy for treating diseases. Unfortunately, the use and study of embryonic stem cells are currently clouded by ethical controversy. Adult stem cells offer a unique alternative in that they may be isolated, studied, or manipulated without harming the donor. Currently, several obstacles for use of adult stem cells as therapy exist. First, the ability to identify most adult stem cells is impeded by lack of stem cell markers. Second, in vitro systems for manipulating adult stem cell populations are often not well defined. Finally, our understanding of how adult stem cells are regulated within their niche is in its infancy. Next to the hematopoietic stem cell, epithelial stem cells are one of the most widely studied stem cell populations. Even so, the diversity between epithelial functions in different organs makes it difficult to determine whether common themes exist in regulating these related stem cells. Although each epithelial stem cell niche possesses unique features to facilitate its specialized functionality, they likely share many common aspects of regulation. The purpose of this review is to compare how the cell signaling influences the stem cell and its niche in rapidly self-renewing epithelia.