Intestinal label-retaining cells are secretory precursors expressing Lgr5

Nature. 2013 Mar 7;495(7439):65-9. doi: 10.1038/nature11965. Epub 2013 Feb 27.


The rapid cell turnover of the intestinal epithelium is achieved from small numbers of stem cells located in the base of glandular crypts. These stem cells have been variously described as rapidly cycling or quiescent. A functional arrangement of stem cells that reconciles both of these behaviours has so far been difficult to obtain. Alternative explanations for quiescent cells have been that they act as a parallel or reserve population that replace rapidly cycling stem cells periodically or after injury; their exact nature remains unknown. Here we show mouse intestinal quiescent cells to be precursors that are committed to mature into differentiated secretory cells of the Paneth and enteroendocrine lineage. However, crucially we find that after intestinal injury they are capable of extensive proliferation and can give rise to clones comprising the main epithelial cell types. Thus, quiescent cells can be recalled to the stem-cell state. These findings establish quiescent cells as an effective clonogenic reserve and provide a motivation for investigating their role in pathologies such as colorectal cancers and intestinal inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Division
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Cell Separation
  • Clone Cells / cytology
  • Clone Cells / metabolism
  • Intestinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Intestines / cytology
  • Intestines / injuries
  • Intestines / pathology
  • Mice
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Multipotent Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Paneth Cells / cytology*
  • Paneth Cells / metabolism*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Regeneration
  • Staining and Labeling
  • Stem Cell Niche


  • Biomarkers
  • Lgr5 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE43772