Ascl3 marks adult progenitor cells of the mouse salivary gland.
ABSTRACT The Ascl3 transcription factor marks a subset of salivary gland duct cells present in the three major salivary glands of the mouse. In vivo, these cells generate both duct and secretory acinar cell descendants. Here, we have analyzed whether Ascl3-expressing cells retain this multipotent lineage potential in adult glands. Cells isolated from mouse salivary glands were cultured in vitro as non-adherent spheres. Lineage tracing of the Ascl3-expressing cells within the spheres demonstrates that Ascl3+ cells isolated from adult glands remain multipotent, generating both duct and acinar cell types in vitro. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the progenitor cells characterized by Keratin 5 expression are an independent population from Ascl3+ progenitor cells. We conclude that the Ascl3+ cells are intermediate lineage-restricted progenitor cells of the adult salivary glands.