The mammary epithelium comprises two primary cellular lineages, but the degree of heterogeneity within these compartments and their lineage relationships during development remain an open question. Here we report single-cell RNA profiling of mouse mammary epithelial cells spanning four developmental stages in the post-natal gland. Notably, the epithelium undergoes a large-scale shift in gene expression from a relatively homogeneous basal-like program in pre-puberty to distinct lineage-restricted programs in puberty. Interrogation of single-cell transcriptomes reveals different levels of diversity within the luminal and basal compartments, and identifies an early progenitor subset marked by CD55. Moreover, we uncover a luminal transit population and a rare mixed-lineage cluster amongst basal cells in the adult mammary gland. Together these findings point to a developmental hierarchy in which a basal-like gene expression program prevails in the early post-natal gland prior to the specification of distinct lineage signatures, and the presence of cellular intermediates that may serve as transit or lineage-primed cells.
Stem Cells and Cancer; Bioinformatics; Systems Biology and Personalised Medicine