N-Cadherin is expressed by putative stem/progenitor cells and melanocytes in the human limbal epithelial stem cell niche

Stem Cells. 2007 Feb;25(2):289-96. doi: 10.1634/stemcells.2006-0167. Epub 2006 Sep 28.


Corneal epithelial stem cells are known to be localized to the basal layer of the limbal epithelium, providing a model system for epithelial stem cell biology; however, the mechanisms regarding the maintenance of these stem cells in their specialized niche remain poorly understood. N-cadherin is a member of the classic cadherin family and has previously been demonstrated to be expressed by hematopoietic stem cells. In the present study, we demonstrate that N-cadherin is expressed by putative stem/progenitor cells, as well as melanocytes, in the human limbal epithelial stem cell niche. In addition, we demonstrate that upon in vitro culture using 3T3 feeder layers, loss of N-cadherin expression occurs with cell proliferation. These results indicate that N-cadherin may be a critical cell-to-cell adhesion molecule between corneal epithelial stem/progenitor cells and their corresponding niche cells in the limbal epithelium.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Colony-Forming Units Assay
  • Epithelium, Corneal / cytology
  • Epithelium, Corneal / metabolism*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Limbus Corneae / cytology
  • Limbus Corneae / metabolism
  • Melanocytes / cytology
  • Melanocytes / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Biological
  • NIH 3T3 Cells
  • Protein Transport
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / cytology
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers
  • Cadherins
  • RNA, Messenger