Isolation and characterization of intestinal stem cells based on surface marker combinations and colony-formation assay

Fengchao Wang, David Scoville, Xi C. He, Maxime M. Mahe, Andrew Box, John M. Perry, Nicholas R. Smith, Nan Ye Lei, Paige S. Davies, Megan K. Fuller, Jeffrey S. Haug, Melainia McClain, Adam D. Gracz, Sheng Ding, Matthias Stelzner, James C.Y. Dunn, Scott T. Magness, Melissa H. Wong, Martin G. Martin, Michael HelmrathLinheng Li

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

163 Scopus citations


Background & Aims Identification of intestinal stem cells (ISCs) has relied heavily on the use of transgenic reporters in mice, but this approach is limited by mosaic expression patterns and difficult to directly apply to human tissues. We sought to identify reliable surface markers of ISCs and establish a robust functional assay to characterize ISCs from mouse and human tissues. Methods We used immunohistochemistry, real-time reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) to analyze intestinal epithelial cells isolated from mouse and human intestinal tissues. We compared different combinations of surface markers among ISCs isolated based on expression of Lgr5-green fluorescent protein. We developed a culture protocol to facilitate the identification of functional ISCs from mice and then tested the assay with human intestinal crypts and putative ISCs. Results CD44 +CD24loCD166+ cells, isolated by FACS from mouse small intestine and colon, expressed high levels of stem cell-associated genes. Transit-amplifying cells and progenitor cells were then excluded based on expression of GRP78 or c-Kit. CD44+CD24loCD166 + GRP78lo/- putative stem cells from mouse small intestine included Lgr5-GFPhi and Lgr5-GFPmed/lo cells. Incubation of these cells with the GSK inhibitor CHIR99021 and the E-cadherin stabilizer Thiazovivin resulted in colony formation by 25% to 30% of single-sorted ISCs. Conclusions We developed a culture protocol to identify putative ISCs from mouse and human tissues based on cell surface markers. CD44+CD24 loCD166+, GRP78lo/-, and c-Kit- facilitated identification of putative stem cells from the mouse small intestine and colon, respectively. CD44+CD24-/loCD166+ also identified putative human ISCs. These findings will facilitate functional studies of mouse and human ISCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-395.e21
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2013


  • Stemness Differentiation Single-Cell Sorting Flow Cytometry Analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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