Signaling in the stem cell niche: regulating cell fate, function and plasticity

Development. 2018 Aug 1;145(15):dev165399. doi: 10.1242/dev.165399.


Stem cells have the ability to self-renew and differentiate along multiple lineages, driving tissue homeostasis and regeneration. Paradigms of unidirectional, hierarchical differentiation trajectories observed in embryonic and hematopoietic stem cells have traditionally been applied to tissue-resident stem cells. However, accumulating evidence implicates stemness as a bidirectional, dynamic state that is largely governed by the niche, which facilitates plasticity and adaptability to changing conditions. In this Review, we discuss mechanisms of cell fate regulation through niche-derived cues, with a particular focus on epithelial stem cells of the mammalian skin, intestine and lung. We discuss a spectrum of niche-derived biochemical, mechanical and architectural inputs that define stem cell states during morphogenesis, homeostasis and regeneration, and highlight how these diverse inputs influence stem cell plasticity.

Keywords: Epithelium; Intestine; Lung; Niche; Skin; Stem cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation* / genetics
  • Cell Lineage* / genetics
  • Cell Physiological Phenomena
  • Cell Plasticity* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Stem Cell Niche / genetics
  • Stem Cell Niche / physiology*