Transcription factor p63 controls the reserve status but not the stemness of horizontal basal cells in the olfactory epithelium

Nikolai Schnittke, Daniel B. Herrick, Brian Lin, Jesse Peterson, Julie H. Coleman, Adam I. Packard, Woochan Jang, James E. Schwob

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


Adult tissue stem cells can serve two broad functions: to participate actively in the maintenance and regeneration of a tissue or to wait in reserve and participate only when activated from a dormant state. The adult olfactory epithelium, a site for ongoing, life-long, robust neurogenesis, contains both of these functional stem cell types. Globose basal cells (GBCs) act as the active stem cell population and can give rise to all the differentiated cells found in the normal tissue. Horizontal basal cells (HBCs) act as reserve stem cells and remain dormant unless activated by tissue injury. Here we show that HBC activation following injury by the olfactotoxic gas methyl bromide is coincident with the downregulation of protein 63 (p63) but anticipates HBC proliferation. Gain- and loss-of-function studies show that this down-regulation of p63 is necessary and sufficient for HBC activation. Moreover, activated HBCs give rise to GBCs that persist for months and continue to act as bona fide stem cells by participating in tissue maintenance and regeneration over the long term. Our analysis provides mechanistic insight into the dynamics between tissue stem cell subtypes and demonstrates that p63 regulates the reserve state but not the stem cell status of HBCs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E5068-E5077
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number36
StatePublished - Sep 8 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Colony-forming unit
  • Lineage tracing
  • Neural regeneration
  • Reserve stem cell
  • Retroviral transduction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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