Studies of the identity and physiological function of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) have been hampered by a lack of markers that permit both prospective identification and fate mapping in vivo. We found that Leptin Receptor (LepR) is a marker that highly enriches bone marrow MSCs. Approximately 0.3% of bone marrow cells were LepR(+), 10% of which were CFU-Fs, accounting for 94% of bone marrow CFU-Fs. LepR(+) cells formed bone, cartilage, and adipocytes in culture and upon transplantation in vivo. LepR(+) cells were Scf-GFP(+), Cxcl12-DsRed(high), and Nestin-GFP(low), markers which also highly enriched CFU-Fs, but negative for Nestin-CreER and NG2-CreER, markers which were unlikely to be found in CFU-Fs. Fate-mapping showed that LepR(+) cells arose postnatally and gave rise to most bone and adipocytes formed in adult bone marrow, including bone regenerated after irradiation or fracture. LepR(+) cells were quiescent, but they proliferated after injury. Therefore, LepR(+) cells are the major source of bone and adipocytes in adult bone marrow.
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