Background & Aims: In the mouse intestinal epithelium, Lgr5+ stem cells are vulnerable to injury, owing to their predominantly cycling nature, and their progenies de-differentiate to replenish the stem cell pool. However, how human colonic stem cells behave in homeostasis and during regeneration remains unknown. Methods: Transcriptional heterogeneity among colonic epithelial cells was analyzed by means of single-cell RNA sequencing analysis of human and mouse colonic epithelial cells. To trace the fate of human colonic stem or differentiated cells, we generated LGR5-tdTomato, LGR5-iCasase9-tdTomato, LGR5-split-Cre, and KRT20-ERCreER knock-in human colon organoids via genome engineering. p27+ dormant cells were further visualized with the p27-mVenus reporter. To analyze the dynamics of human colonic stem cells in vivo, we orthotopically xenotransplanted fluorescence-labeled human colon organoids into immune-deficient mice. The cell cycle dynamics in xenograft cells were evaluated using 5-ethynyl-2′-deoxyuridine pulse-chase analysis. The clonogenic capacity of slow-cycling human stem cells or differentiated cells was analyzed in the context of homeostasis, LGR5 ablation, and 5-fluorouracil–induced mucosal injury. Results: Single-cell RNA sequencing analysis illuminated the presence of nondividing LGR5+ stem cells in the human colon. Visualization and lineage tracing of slow-cycling LGR5+p27+ cells and orthotopic xenotransplantation validated their homeostatic lineage-forming capability in vivo, which was augmented by 5-FU–induced mucosal damage. Transforming growth factor–β signaling regulated the quiescent state of LGR5+ cells. Despite the plasticity of differentiated KRT20+ cells, they did not display clonal growth after 5-FU–induced injury, suggesting that occupation of the niche environment by LGR5+p27+ cells prevented neighboring differentiated cells from de-differentiating. Conclusions: Our results highlight the quiescent nature of human LGR5+ colonic stem cells and their contribution to post-injury regeneration.
ASJC Scopus subject areas