Asymmetric cell division of mammary stem cells

Cell Div. 2021 Sep 29;16(1):5. doi: 10.1186/s13008-021-00073-w.


Somatic stem cells are distinguished by their capacity to regenerate themselves and also to produce daughter cells that will differentiate. Self-renewal is achieved through the process of asymmetric cell division which helps to sustain tissue morphogenesis as well as maintain homeostasis. Asymmetric cell division results in the development of two daughter cells with different fates after a single mitosis. Only one daughter cell maintains "stemness" while the other differentiates and achieves a non-stem cell fate. Stem cells also have the capacity to undergo symmetric division of cells that results in the development of two daughter cells which are identical. Symmetric division results in the expansion of the stem cell population. Imbalances and deregulations in these processes can result in diseases such as cancer. Adult mammary stem cells (MaSCs) are a group of cells that play a critical role in the expansion of the mammary gland during puberty and any subsequent pregnancies. Furthermore, given the relatively long lifespans and their capability to undergo self-renewal, adult stem cells have been suggested as ideal candidates for transformation events that lead to the development of cancer. With the possibility that MaSCs can act as the source cells for distinct breast cancer types; understanding their regulation is an important field of research. In this review, we discuss asymmetric cell division in breast/mammary stem cells and implications on further research. We focus on the background history of asymmetric cell division, asymmetric cell division monitoring techniques, identified molecular mechanisms of asymmetric stem cell division, and the role asymmetric cell division may play in breast cancer.

Keywords: Asymmetric cell division; Cancer stem cells; Mammary stem cells; Molecular mechanisms.

Publication types

  • Review