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Out with the Old and in with the New - The New Stem Cell Mantra

Researchers find that mammary stem cells preferentially utilize newly-made mitochondria rather than older, and this mechanism may contribute to tissue maintenance and ageing.

Lineage Specific Methylation of the Elf5 Promoter in Mammary Epithelial Cells

From the October Edition of Stem Cells
By Stuart P. Atkinson

The E-twenty six transcription factor, Elf5, has been previously identified as an important regulator of mammary alveolar development (Oakes et al and Choi et al). Elf5 is not expressed in the stem cell-enriched compartment of the mammary gland, but is expressed in both luminal progenitors and mature luminal cells and is required for the differentiation of luminal progenitor cells toward the alveolar lineage. Few studies have sought to understand the role of epigenetic regulation of gene expression in the mammary gland (Rinkels et al, Bloushtain-Qimron et al, Gu et al and Pietersen et al) and, as the epigenetic regulation of Elf itself is known to be very important during development (Ng et al), DNA methylation studies may allow a better understanding the epigenetic control of mammary development. This was the focus of a recent study published in the October edition of Stem Cells from the laboratories of Susan J. Clark and Christopher J. Ormandy at the Garvan Institute of Medical Research, New South Wales, Australia. Using bisulphite sequencing, the authors show that Elf5 expression and DNA methylation are correlated and so demonstrate that Elf5 promoter methylation is lineage-specific and developmentally regulated in the mammary gland in vivo (Lee and Hinshelwood et al).

Keeping abreast of cell fate hierarchy: mammary tissue can bounce both ways

By Carla Mellough

The dogma that stem cells exist at the apex of a cellular hierarchy and divide to self-renew as well as generate more differentiated progeny in a unidirectional fashion may now be under question following a recent report published in PNAS. The paper, by Christine Chaffer et al., originates from various academic centres in Massachusetts and provides evidence that a certain type of human mammary epithelial cell displays an unexpected degree of plasticity, and can revert from a more differentiated cell towards a stem cell-like state. Observations that normal and neoplastic cells can naturally co-exist in populations of epithelial cells grown in vitro led the authors to study the biology of subpopulations of primary human mammary epithelial cells (HMECs) and HMECs from a human breast cancer cell line. And what they discovered in fact is that breast cells can swing either way.

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