Molecular markers are used to characterize and track adult stem cells. Colon cancer research has led to the identification of 2 related receptors, leucine-rich repeat-containing, G-protein-coupled receptors (Lgr)5 and Lgr6, that are expressed by small populations of cells in a variety of adult organs. Genetic mouse models have allowed the visualization, isolation, and genetic marking of Lgr5+veand Lgr6+vecells and provided evidence that they are stem cells. The Lgr5+vecells were found to occupy locations not commonly associated with stem cells in the stomach, small intestine, colon, and hair follicles. A multipotent population of skin stem cells express Lgr6. Single Lgr5+vestem cells from the small intestine and the stomach can be cultured into long-lived organoids. Further studies of these markers might reveal adult stem cell populations in additional tissues. Identification of the ligands for Lgr5 and 6 will help elucidate stem cell functions and modes of intracellular signaling. © 2010 AGA Institute.
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