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The annual regrowth of deer antlers provides a valuable model for studying organ regeneration in mammals. We describe a single-cell atlas of antler regrowth. The earliest-stage antler initiators were mesenchymal cells that express the paired related homeobox 1 gene (PRRX1+ mesenchymal cells). We also identified a population of "antler blastema progenitor cells" (ABPCs) that developed from the PRRX1+ mesenchymal cells and directed the antler regeneration process. Cross-species comparisons identified ABPCs in several mammalian blastema. In vivo and in vitro ABPCs displayed strong self-renewal ability and could generate osteochondral lineage cells. Last, we observed a spatially well-structured pattern of cellular and gene expression in antler growth center during the peak growth stage, revealing the cellular mechanisms involved in rapid antler elongation.


Tao Qin, Guokun Zhang, Yi Zheng, Shengyou Li, Yuan Yuan, Qingjie Li, Mingliang Hu, Huazhe Si, Guanning Wei, Xueli Gao, Xinxin Cui, Bing Xia, Jing Ren, Kun Wang, Hengxing Ba, Zhen Liu, Rasmus Heller, Zhipeng Li, Wen Wang, Jinghui Huang, Chunyi Li, Qiang Qiu. A population of stem cells with strong regenerative potential discovered in deer antlers. Science (New York, N.Y.). 2023 Feb 24;379(6634):840-847

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PMID: 36821675

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