Mammary gland development occurs over multiple phases, beginning in the mammalian embryo and continuing throughout reproductive life. The remarkable morphogenetic capacity of the mammary gland at each stage of development is attributed to the activities of distinct populations of mammary stem cells (MaSCs) and progenitor cells. However, the relationship between embryonic and adult MaSCs, and their fate during different waves of mammary gland morphogenesis, remains unclear. By employing a neutral, low-density genetic labelling strategy, we characterised the contribution of proliferative stem/progenitor cells to embryonic, pubertal and reproductive mammary gland development. Our findings further support a model of lineage restriction of MaSCs in the postnatal mammary gland, and highlight extensive redundancy and heterogeneity within the adult stem/progenitor cell pool. Furthermore, our data suggest extensive multiplicity in their foetal precursors that give rise to the primordial mammary epithelium before birth. In addition, using a single-cell labelling approach, we revealed the extraordinary capacity of a single embryonic MaSC to contribute to postnatal ductal development. Together, these findings provide tantalising new insights into the disparate and stage-specific contribution of distinct stem/progenitor cells to mammary gland development.
Bibliographical note© 2018. Published by The Company of Biologists Ltd.
- Adult Stem Cells/cytology
- Cell Lineage
- Cell Proliferation
- Embryonic Development
- Mammary Glands, Animal/cytology
- Mouse Embryonic Stem Cells/cytology
- Sexual Maturation
- Single-Cell Analysis