Identification of a Zeb1 expressing basal stem cell subpopulation in the prostate

Nat Commun. 2020 Feb 5;11(1):706. doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-14296-y.


The basal cell compartment in many epithelial tissues is generally believed to serve as an important pool of stem cells. However, basal cells are heterogenous and the stem cell subpopulation within basal cells is not well elucidated. Here we uncover that the core epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) inducer Zeb1 is expressed in a prostate basal cell subpopulation. The Zeb1+ prostate epithelial cells are multipotent prostate basal stem cells (PBSCs) that can self-renew and generate functional prostatic glandular structures at the single-cell level. Genetic ablation studies reveal an indispensable role for Zeb1 in prostate basal cell development. Utilizing unbiased single-cell transcriptomic analysis of over 9000 mouse prostate basal cells, we confirm the existence of the Zeb1+ basal cell subset. Moreover, Zeb1+ epithelial cells can be detected in mouse and human prostate tumors. Identification of the PBSC and its transcriptome profile is crucial to advance our understanding of prostate development and tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Epithelial Cells / metabolism
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Organ Culture Techniques
  • Pregnancy
  • Prostate / cytology*
  • Prostate / metabolism
  • Prostate / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Single-Cell Analysis
  • Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1 / genetics
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1 / metabolism*


  • ZEB1 protein, mouse
  • Zinc Finger E-box-Binding Homeobox 1