Breault DT, Min IM, Carlone DL, Farilla LG, Ambruzs DM, Henderson DE, Algra S, Montgomery RK, Wagers AJ, Hole N. 2008. Generation of mTert-GFP mice as a model to identify and study tissue progenitor cells. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 105(30):10420-5. Pubmed: 18650388 DOI:10.1073/pnas.0804800105


Stem cells hold great promise for regenerative medicine, but remain elusive in many tissues in part because universal markers of "stemness" have not been identified. The ribonucleoprotein complex telomerase catalyzes the extension of chromosome ends, and its expression is associated with failure of cells to undergo cellular senescence. Because such resistance to senescence is a common characteristic of many stem cells, we hypothesized that telomerase expression may provide a selective biomarker for stem cells in multiple tissues. In fact, telomerase expression has been demonstrated within hematopoietic stem cells. We therefore generated mouse telomerase reverse transcriptase (mTert)-GFP-transgenic mice and assayed the ability of mTert-driven GFP to mark tissue stem cells in testis, bone marrow (BM), and intestine. mTert-GFP mice were generated by using a two-step embryonic stem cell-based strategy, which enabled primary and secondary screening of stably transfected clones before blastocyst injection, greatly increasing the probability of obtaining mTert reporter mice with physiologically appropriate regulation of GFP expression. Analysis of adult mice showed that GFP is expressed in differentiating male germ cells, is enriched among BM-derived hematopoietic stem cells, and specifically marks long-term BrdU-retaining intestinal crypt cells. In addition, telomerase-expressing GFP(+) BM cells showed long-term, serial, multilineage BM reconstitution, fulfilling the functional definition of hematopoietic stem cells. Together, these data provide direct evidence that mTert-GFP expression marks progenitor cells in blood and small intestine, validating these mice as a useful tool for the prospective identification, isolation, and functional characterization of progenitor/stem cells from multiple tissues.

Related Faculty

Photo of Amy Wagers

Amy Wagers seeks to change the way we repair our tissues after an injury. Her research focuses on defining the factors and mechanisms that regulate the migration, expansion, and regenerative potential of adult blood-forming and muscle-forming stem cells.

Photo of David Breault

David Breault’s research focuses on identifying mechanisms underlying tissue homeostasis in self-renewing tissues, such as intestine, adrenal gland, and bone.

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