Intestinal stem cells and their defining niche

Curr Top Dev Biol. 2014;107:77-107. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-416022-4.00003-2.


The intestinal epithelium is a classic example of a rapidly self-renewing tissue fueled by dedicated resident stem cells. These stem cells reside at the crypt base, generating committed progeny that mature into the various functional epithelial lineages while following a rapid migratory path toward the villi. Two models of intestinal stem cell location were proposed half a century ago and data have been presented in support of both models, dividing the scientific community. Molecular markers have been identified and validated using new techniques such as in vivo lineage tracing and ex vivo organoid culture. The intestinal stem cell niche comprises both epithelial cells, in particular the Paneth cell, and the stromal compartment, where cell-associated ligands and soluble factors regulate stem cell behavior. This review highlights the recent advances in identifying and characterizing the intestinal stem cells and their defining niche.

Keywords: Intestinal stem cell; Lineage tracing; Self-renewal; Signaling pathways; Stem cell markers; Stem cell niche.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Adult Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Biomarkers / metabolism*
  • Cell Lineage / physiology*
  • Cellular Microenvironment*
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology*
  • Intestine, Small / cytology*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Paneth Cells / cytology
  • Paneth Cells / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Stromal Cells / cytology
  • Stromal Cells / metabolism


  • Biomarkers