Stem cells and asymmetric cell division

Rita Sousa-Nunes*, Frank Hirth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Asymmetric stem cell division is a widespread process used to generate cellular diversity in developing and adult organisms whilst retaining a steady stem cell pool. When dividing asymmetrically, stem cells self-renew and generate a second cell type, which can be either a differentiating progenitor or a postmitotic cell. Studies in model organisms, most notably the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans , the fruitfly Drosophila melanogaster , and the mouse Mus musculus , have identified interrelated mechanisms that regulate asymmetric cell division, from polarity formation and mitotic spindle orientation, to asymmetric segregation of fate determinants and organelles, that impact growth and proliferation. Mechanisms linking extrinsic signals to cellular asymmetry are also beginning to emerge. These cellular processes are mediated by evolutionary conserved molecules, and together equilibrate numbers of progenitor and differentiated cells. Insights into asymmetric division have enhanced our understanding of stem cell biology and of hypo- or hyper-proliferation as a consequence of its disruption, including cancer formation. These insights are of major interest for regenerative medicine, since asymmetrically dividing stem cells provide a powerful source for targeted cell replacement and tissue regeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRegenerative Medicine - from Protocol to Patient: 1. Biology of Tissue Regeneration: Third Edition
PublisherSpringer International Publishing Switzerland
Number of pages35
ISBN (Electronic)9783319275833
ISBN (Print)9783319275819
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Apr 2016


  • Apicobasal polarity
  • Asymmetric cell division
  • C. elegans
  • Cancer
  • Cell fate determinant
  • Cell polarity
  • Cell replacement
  • Centrosome
  • Differentiation
  • Drosophila
  • Growth
  • Midbody
  • Mitotic spindle orientation
  • Mouse
  • Neural stem cell
  • Neuroblast
  • Primary cilium
  • Progenitor cell
  • Proliferation
  • Self-renewal
  • Stem cell
  • Tissue regeneration


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