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LGR5 and LGR6 in stem cell biology and ovarian cancer


Wnt signaling plays a fundamental role in patterning of the embryo and maintenance of stem cells in numerous epithelia. Epithelial stem cells are closeted in niches created by surrounding differentiated cells that express secreted Wnt and R-spondin proteins that influence proliferation rate and fate determination of stem cell daughters. R-spondins act through the LGR receptors to enhance Wnt signaling. This close association of stem cells with more differentiated regulatory cells expressing Wnt-pathway ligands is a feature replicated in all of the epithelial stem cell systems thus far examined. How the stem cell niche operates through these short-range interactions is best understood for the crypts of the gastrointestinal epithelium and skin. Less well understood are the stem cells that function in the ovarian surface epithelium (OSE) and fallopian tube epithelium (FTE). While the cuboidal OSE appears to be made up of a single cell type, the cells of the FTE progress through a life cycle that involves differentiation into ciliated and secretory subtypes that are eventually shed into the lumen in a manner similar to the gastrointestinal epithelium. Available evidence suggests that high grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC) originates most often from stem cells in the FTE and that Wnt signaling augmented by LGR6 supports tumor development and progression. This review summarizes current information on LGR5 and LGR6 in the OSE and FTE and how their niches are organized relative to that of the gastrointestinal epithelium and skin.

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