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Bone Marrow Niches for Skeletal Progenitor Cells and their Inhabitants in Health and Disease

[ Vol. 14 , Issue. 4 ]


Marietta Herrmann* and Franz Jakob   Pages 305 - 319 ( 15 )


The bone marrow hosts skeletal progenitor cells which have most widely been referred to as Mesenchymal Stem or Stromal Cells (MSCs), a heterogeneous population of adult stem cells possessing the potential for self-renewal and multilineage differentiation. A consensus agreement on minimal criteria has been suggested to define MSCs in vitro, including adhesion to plastic, expression of typical surface markers and the ability to differentiate towards the adipogenic, osteogenic and chondrogenic lineages but they are critically discussed since the differentiation capability of cells could not always be confirmed by stringent assays in vivo. However, these in vitro characteristics have led to the notion that progenitor cell populations, similar to MSCs in bone marrow, reside in various tissues. MSCs are in the focus of numerous (pre)clinical studies on tissue regeneration and repair.

Recent advances in terms of genetic animal models enabled a couple of studies targeting skeletal progenitor cells in vivo. Accordingly, different skeletal progenitor cell populations could be identified by the expression of surface markers including nestin and leptin receptor. While there are still issues with the identity of, and the overlap between different cell populations, these studies suggested that specific microenvironments, referred to as niches, host and maintain skeletal progenitor cells in the bone marrow. Dynamic mutual interactions through biological and physical cues between niche constituting cells and niche inhabitants control dormancy, symmetric and asymmetric cell division and lineage commitment. Niche constituting cells, inhabitant cells and their extracellular matrix are subject to influences of aging and disease e.g. via cellular modulators. Protective niches can be hijacked and abused by metastasizing tumor cells, and may even be adapted via mutual education. Here, we summarize the current knowledge on bone marrow skeletal progenitor cell niches in physiology and pathophysiology. We discuss the plasticity and dynamics of bone marrow niches as well as future perspectives of targeting niches for therapeutic strategies.


Niche, MSC, skeletal stem/progenitor cells, multiple myeloma, homing, mobilization.


Orthopedic Center for Musculoskeletal Research, University of Wuerzburg, Wuerzburg, Orthopedic Center for Musculoskeletal Research, University of Wuerzburg, Wuerzburg

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