Colon stem cell and crypt dynamics exposed by cell lineage reconstruction

PLoS Genet. 2011 Jul;7(7):e1002192. doi: 10.1371/journal.pgen.1002192. Epub 2011 Jul 28.


Stem cell dynamics in vivo are often being studied by lineage tracing methods. Our laboratory has previously developed a retrospective method for reconstructing cell lineage trees from somatic mutations accumulated in microsatellites. This method was applied here to explore different aspects of stem cell dynamics in the mouse colon without the use of stem cell markers. We first demonstrated the reliability of our method for the study of stem cells by confirming previously established facts, and then we addressed open questions. Our findings confirmed that colon crypts are monoclonal and that, throughout adulthood, the process of monoclonal conversion plays a major role in the maintenance of crypts. The absence of immortal strand mechanism in crypts stem cells was validated by the age-dependent accumulation of microsatellite mutations. In addition, we confirmed the positive correlation between physical and lineage proximity of crypts, by showing that the colon is separated into small domains that share a common ancestor. We gained new data demonstrating that colon epithelium is clustered separately from hematopoietic and other cell types, indicating that the colon is constituted of few progenitors and ruling out significant renewal of colonic epithelium from hematopoietic cells during adulthood. Overall, our study demonstrates the reliability of cell lineage reconstruction for the study of stem cell dynamics, and it further addresses open questions in colon stem cells. In addition, this method can be applied to study stem cell dynamics in other systems.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • B-Lymphocytes / metabolism
  • Cell Lineage* / genetics
  • Colon / cytology*
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, 129 Strain
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pancreas / cytology
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism