The stem cell niche is a specialized environment that dictates stem cell function during development and homeostasis. We show that Dll1, a Notch pathway ligand, is enriched in mammary gland stem cells (MaSCs) and mediates critical interactions with stromal macrophages in the surrounding niche in mouse models. Conditional deletion of Dll1 reduced the number of MaSCs and impaired ductal morphogenesis in the mammary gland. Moreover, MaSC-expressed Dll1 activates Notch signaling in stromal macrophages, increasing their expression of Wnt family ligands such as Wnt3, Wnt10A, and Wnt16, thereby initiating a feedback loop that promotes the function of Dll1-expressing MaSCs. Together, these findings reveal functionally important cross-talk between MaSCs and their macrophageal niche through Dll1-mediated Notch signaling.
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