Mammary Lineage Tracing: The Coming of Age

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2015 Apr;72(8):1577-83. doi: 10.1007/s00018-014-1817-7. Epub 2015 Jan 7.


Identification and characterization of the normal epithelial lineages in the mammary gland is a fundamental step in understanding both development and cellular origin of cancer. In contrast to other tissues where lineage tracing has been widely accepted as a method of choice for dissecting the stem cell hierarchy, mammary gland has long remained a challenge due to its unique developmental and topological features. Recent advances in high-resolution single-cell imaging, combined with the use of inducible Cre-recombinase and in situ cell ablation, have provided unprecedented insight into mammary epithelial cell composition and function. Here, we briefly summarize and compare different mammary gland lineage tracing strategies, examine associated caveats and discuss future challenges and opportunities.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Lineage
  • Epithelial Cells / cytology
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Dyes / chemistry
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional
  • Integrases / genetics
  • Integrases / metabolism
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / chemistry
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / pathology
  • Models, Animal


  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Cre recombinase
  • Integrases