Tissues rely upon stem cells for homeostasis and repair. Recent studies show that the fate and multilineage potential of epithelial stem cells can change depending on whether a stem cell exists within its resident niche and responds to normal tissue homeostasis, whether it is mobilized to repair a wound, or whether it is taken from its niche and challenged to de novo tissue morphogenesis after transplantation. In this Review, we discuss how different populations of naturally lineage-restricted stem cells and committed progenitors can display remarkable plasticity and reversibility and reacquire long-term self-renewing capacities and multilineage differentiation potential during physiological and regenerative conditions. We also discuss the implications of cellular plasticity for regenerative medicine and for cancer.
Copyright © 2014, American Association for the Advancement of Science.