We found neural crest stem cells (NCSCs) in the adult gut. Postnatal gut NCSCs were isolated by flow-cytometry and compared to fetal gut NCSCs. They self-renewed extensively in culture but less than fetal gut NCSCs. Postnatal gut NCSCs made neurons that expressed a variety of neurotransmitters but lost the ability to make certain subtypes of neurons that are generated during fetal development. Postnatal gut NCSCs also differed in their responsiveness to lineage determination factors, affecting cell fate determination in vivo and possibly explaining their reduced neuronal subtype potential. These perinatal changes in gut NCSCs parallel perinatal changes in hematopoietic stem cells, suggesting that stem cells in different tissues undergo similar developmental transitions. The persistence of NCSCs in the adult PNS opens up new possibilities for regeneration after injury or disease.
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