Lgr5-positive endothelial progenitor cells occupy a tumor and injury prone niche in the kidney vasa recta

Stem Cell Res. 2020 Jul;46:101849. doi: 10.1016/j.scr.2020.101849. Epub 2020 May 20.


The Wnt pathway co-receptor, Leucine Rich Repeat Containing G Protein-Coupled Receptor 5 (LGR5), labels tumor-prone stem cell populations in certain types of tissue. In this study, we show that ARID1A and PIK3CA mutations in LGR5+ cells result in renal angiosarcomas in adult mice. The tumors originate in the renal medulla. We further show that LGR5 labels SOX17+/CD31+/CD34+/CD133+/AQP1+/CD146+ endothelial progenitor cells within the descending vasa recta or straight arterioles of the kidney, which are specialized capillaries that maintain medullary osmotic gradients necessary for water reabsorption and the production of concentrated urine. LGR5+ endothelial progenitor cells are tightly associated with contractile pericytes within the descending vasa recta. Long-term in vivo lineage tracing revealed that LGR5+ cells give rise to renal medullary vasculature. We further show that LGR5+ cells are activated in response to ischemic kidney injury. Our findings uncover a physiologically relevant endothelial progenitor cell population within the kidney vasa recta.

Keywords: Acute kidney injury; Ischemia; Stem cells; Vasa recta.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Capillaries
  • Endothelial Progenitor Cells*
  • Kidney
  • Kidney Medulla
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms*
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics


  • Lgr5 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled