The transcription factor Sox2 maintains the pluripotency of early embryonic cells and regulates the formation of several epithelia during fetal development. Whether Sox2 continues to play a role in adult tissues remains largely unknown. We show here that Sox2 marks adult cells in several epithelial tissues where its expression has not previously been characterized, including the stomach, cervix, anus, testes, lens, and multiple glands. Genetic lineage tracing and transplantation experiments demonstrate that Sox2-expressing cells continuously give rise to mature cell types within these tissues, documenting their self-renewal and differentiation potentials. Consistent with these findings, ablation of Sox2(+) cells in mice results in a disruption of epithelial tissue homeostasis and lethality. Developmental fate mapping reveals that Sox2(+) adult stem cells originate from fetal Sox2(+) tissue progenitors. Thus, our results identify Sox2 expression in numerous adult endodermal and ectodermal stem cell compartments, which are critical for normal tissue regeneration and survival.
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