Stem cell-based therapeutics have the potential to effectively treat many terminal and debilitating human diseases, but the mechanisms by which their growth and differentiation are regulated are incompletely defined. Recent data from multiple systems suggest major roles for G protein coupled receptor (GPCR) pathways in regulating stem cell function in vivo and in vitro. The goal of this review is to illustrate common ground between the growing field of stem cell therapeutics and the long-established field of G protein coupled receptor signaling. Herein, we briefly introduce basic stem cell biology and discuss how several conserved pathways regulate pluripotency and differentiation in mouse and human stem cells. We further discuss general mechanisms by which GPCR signaling may impact these pluripotency and differentiation pathways, and summarize specific examples of receptors from each of the major GPCR subfamilies that have been shown to regulate stem cell function. Finally, we discuss possible therapeutic implications of GPCR regulation of stem cell function.
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