Existence of slow-cycling limbal epithelial basal cells that can be preferentially stimulated to proliferate: implications on epithelial stem cells

Cell. 1989 Apr 21;57(2):201-9. doi: 10.1016/0092-8674(89)90958-6.


Despite the obvious importance of epithelial stem cells in tissue homeostasis and tumorigenesis, little is known about their specific location or biological characteristics. Using 3H-thymidine labeling, we have identified a subpopulation of corneal epithelial basal cells, located in the peripheral cornea in a region called limbus, that are normally slow cycling, but can be stimulated to proliferate in response to wounding and to a tumor promotor, TPA. No such cells can be detected in the central corneal epithelium, suggesting that corneal epithelial stem cells are located in the limbus. A comparison of various types of epithelial stem cells revealed a common set of features, including their preferred location, pigment protection, and growth properties, which presumably play a crucial role in epithelial stem cell function.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autoradiography
  • Cell Cycle* / drug effects
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cornea / cytology*
  • Cornea / drug effects
  • Cornea / metabolism
  • Corneal Injuries
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Epithelium / drug effects
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate
  • Thymidine / metabolism
  • Time Factors
  • Wound Healing


  • Tetradecanoylphorbol Acetate
  • Thymidine