WNT-Mediated Regulation of FOXO1 Constitutes a Critical Axis Maintaining Pubertal Mammary Stem Cell Homeostasis

Dev Cell. 2017 Nov 20;43(4):436-448.e6. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2017.10.007. Epub 2017 Nov 2.


Puberty is characterized by dynamic tissue remodeling in the mammary gland involving ductal elongation, resolution into the mature epithelial bilayer, and lumen formation. To decipher the cellular mechanisms underlying these processes, we studied the fate of putative stem cells, termed cap cells, present in terminal end buds of pubertal mice. Employing a p63CreERT2-based lineage-tracing strategy, we identified a unipotent fate for proliferative cap cells that only generated cells with basal features. Furthermore, we observed that dislocated "cap-in-body" cells underwent apoptosis, which aided lumen formation during ductal development. Basal lineage-specific profiling and genetic loss-of-function experiments revealed a critical role for FOXO transcription factors in mediating these proliferative versus apoptotic fates. Importantly, these studies revealed a mode of WNT signaling-mediated FOXO1 inhibition, potentially mediated through AKT. Together, these data suggest that the WNT pathway confers proliferative and survival advantages on cap cells via regulation of FOXO1 localization.

Keywords: FOXO transcription factors; WNT pathway; apoptosis; cap cells; mammary stem cells; p63 lineage tracing.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology*
  • Breast / cytology
  • Breast / metabolism*
  • Cell Lineage / physiology
  • Cell Proliferation / physiology
  • Forkhead Box Protein O1 / metabolism*
  • Homeostasis / physiology*
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / growth & development
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / metabolism
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / physiology*


  • Forkhead Box Protein O1
  • Foxo1 protein, mouse