The extent to which heterogeneity within mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) populations is related to function is not understood. Using the archetypal MSC in vitro surface marker, CD90/Thy1, here we show that 30% of the MSCs in the continuously growing mouse incisor express CD90/Thy1 and these cells give rise to 30% of the differentiated cell progeny during postnatal development. In adulthood, when growth rate homeostasis is established, the CD90/Thy1 + MSCs decrease dramatically in number. When adult incisors are cut, the growth rate increases to rapidly re-establish tooth length and homeostasis. This accelerated growth rate correlates with the re-appearance of CD90/Thy + MSCs and re-establishment of their contribution to cell differentiation. A population of Celsr1 + quiescent cells becomes mitotic following clipping and replenishes the CD90/Thy1 population. A sub-population of MSCs thus exists in the mouse incisor, distinguished by expression of CD90/Thy1 that plays a specific role only during periods of increased growth rate.
Mouse incisors constantly renew from a slow cycling population of mesenchymal stem cells. Here, the authors show that upon cutting of adult incisors, a sub-population of dental mesenchymal stem cells reactivates, allowing an increased growth rate and rapid regeneration.