Single-Cell Transcriptomes Distinguish Stem Cell State Changes and Lineage Specification Programs in Early Mammary Gland Development

Cell Rep. 2018 Aug 7;24(6):1653-1666.e7. doi: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.07.025.


The mammary gland consists of cells with gene expression patterns reflecting their cellular origins, function, and spatiotemporal context. However, knowledge of developmental kinetics and mechanisms of lineage specification is lacking. We address this significant knowledge gap by generating a single-cell transcriptome atlas encompassing embryonic, postnatal, and adult mouse mammary development. From these data, we map the chronology of transcriptionally and epigenetically distinct cell states and distinguish fetal mammary stem cells (fMaSCs) from their precursors and progeny. fMaSCs show balanced co-expression of factors associated with discrete adult lineages and a metabolic gene signature that subsides during maturation but reemerges in some human breast cancers and metastases. These data provide a useful resource for illuminating mammary cell heterogeneity, the kinetics of differentiation, and developmental correlates of tumorigenesis.

Keywords: cell fates; cell states; epithelial lineage specification; heterogeneity; mammary gland development; single-cell RNA sequencing; stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / cytology
  • Mammary Glands, Animal / growth & development*
  • Mice
  • Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Transcriptome