Basal cells (BCs) are p63-expressing multipotent progenitors of skin, tracheoesophageal and urinary tracts. p63 is abundant in developing airways; however, it remains largely unclear how embryonic p63+ cells contribute to the developing and postnatal respiratory tract epithelium, and ultimately how they relate to adult BCs. Using lineage-tracing and functional approaches in vivo, we show that p63+ cells arising from the lung primordium are initially multipotent progenitors of airway and alveolar lineages but later become restricted proximally to generate the tracheal adult stem cell pool. In intrapulmonary airways, these cells are maintained immature to adulthood in bronchi, establishing a rare p63+Krt5- progenitor cell population that responds to H1N1 virus-induced severe injury. Intriguingly, this pool includes a CC10 lineage-labeled p63+Krt5- cell subpopulation required for a full H1N1-response. These data elucidate key aspects in the establishment of regionally distinct adult stem cell pools in the respiratory system, potentially with relevance to other organs.
The transcription factor TCF7L1 is an embryonic stem cell signature gene that is upregulated in multiple aggressive cancer types, but its role in skin tumorigenesis has not yet been defined. Here we document TCF7L1 upregulation in skin squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) and demonstrate that TCF7L1 overexpression increases tumor incidence, tumor multiplicity, and malignant progression in the chemically induced mouse model of skin SCC. Additionally, we show that downregulation of TCF7L1 and its paralogue TCF7L2 reduces tumor growth in a xenograft model of human skin SCC. Using separation-of-function mutants, we show that TCF7L1 promotes tumor growth, enhances cell migration, and overrides oncogenic RAS-induced senescence independently of its interaction with β-catenin. Through transcriptome profiling and combined gain- and loss-of-function studies, we identified LCN2 as a major downstream effector of TCF7L1 that drives tumor growth. Our findings establish a tumor-promoting role for TCF7L1 in skin and elucidate the mechanisms underlying its tumorigenic capacity.