In fertile women, the endometrium undergoes regular cycles of tissue build-up and regression. It is likely that uterine stem cells are involved in this remarkable turn over. The main goal of our current investigations was to identify slow-cycling (quiescent) endometrial stem cells by means of a pulse-chase approach to selectively earmark, prospectively isolate, and characterize label-retaining cells (LRCs). To this aim, transgenic mice expressing histone2B-GFP (H2B-GFP) in a Tet-inducible fashion were administered doxycycline (pulse) which was thereafter withdrawn from the drinking water (chase). Over time, dividing cells progressively loose GFP signal whereas infrequently dividing cells retain H2B-GFP expression. We evaluated H2B-GFP retaining cells at different chase time points and identified long-term (LT; >12 weeks) LRCs. The LT-LRCs are negative for estrogen receptor-α and express low levels of progesterone receptors. LRCs sorted by FACS are able to form spheroids capable of self-renewal and differentiation. Upon serum stimulation spheroid cells are induced to differentiate and form glandular structures which express markers of mature Mu{double acute}llerian epithelial cells. Overall, the results indicate that quiescent cells located in the distal oviduct have stem-like properties and can differentiate into distinct cell lineages specific of endometrium, proximal and distal oviduct. Future lineage-tracing studies will elucidate the role played by these cells in homeostasis, tissue injury and cancer of the female reproductive tract in the mouse and eventually in man.

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Journal PLoS ONE
Wang, Y, Sacchetti, A, van Dijk, M.R, van der Zee, M, van der Horst, P.H, Joosten, R, … Fodde, R. (2012). Identification of quiescent, stem-like cells in the distal female reproductive tract. PLoS ONE, 7(7). doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0040691