Mammary Stem Cells; Premise, Properties, and Perspectives

Bethan Lloyd-Lewis, Olivia B Harris, Christine J Watson, Felicity M Davis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article (Academic Journal)peer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


Adult mammary stem cells (MaSCs) drive postnatal organogenesis and remodeling in the mammary gland, and their longevity and potential have important implications for breast cancer. However, despite intense investigation the identity, location, and differentiation potential of MaSCs remain subject to deliberation. The application of genetic lineage-tracing models, combined with quantitative 3D imaging and biophysical methods, has provided new insights into the mammary epithelial hierarchy that challenge classical definitions of MaSC potency and behaviors. We review here recent advances - discussing fundamental unresolved properties of MaSC potency, dynamics, and plasticity - and point to evolving technologies that promise to shed new light on this intractable debate. Elucidation of the physiological mammary differentiation hierarchy is paramount to understanding the complex heterogeneous breast cancer landscape.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)556-567
Number of pages12
JournalTrends in Cell Biology
Issue number8
Early online date6 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2017 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mammary Glands, Animal/cytology
  • Mammary Glands, Human/cytology
  • Mice
  • Stem Cell Niche
  • Stem Cells/cytology


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