Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Sonic hedgehog signals to multiple prostate stromal stem cells that replenish distinct stromal subtypes during regeneration.

PMID 24218555


The adult mouse prostate has a seemingly endless capacity for regeneration, and sonic hedgehog (SHH) signaling has been implicated in this stem cell-driven process. However, it is not clear whether SHH acts on the epithelium or stromal cells that secrete factors required for epithelial expansion. Because little is known about stromal stem cells compared with their epithelial counterparts, we used in vivo mouse genetics tools to characterize four prostate stromal subtypes and their stem cells. Using knockin reporter alleles, we uncovered that SHH signals from prostate basal epithelial cells to adjacent stromal cells. Furthermore, the SHH target gene Gli1 is preferentially expressed in subepithelial fibroblast-like cells, one of four prostate stromal subtypes and the subtype closest to the epithelial source of SHH. Using Genetic Inducible Fate Mapping to mark adult Gli1- or Smooth muscle actin-expressing cells and follow their fate during regeneration, we uncovered that Gli1-expressing cells exhibit long-term self-renewal capacity during multiple rounds of androgen-mediated regeneration after castration-induced involution, and depleted smooth muscle cells are mainly replenished by preexisting smooth muscle cells. Based on our Genetic Inducible Fate Mapping studies, we propose a model where SHH signals to multiple stromal stem cells, which are largely unipotent in vivo.