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Definition: Ability of a particular stem cell to generate various differentiated cell types.

Stem cells have ability of self renewal.

In mammals,

1) Totipotent Stem Cells:

  • Capable of forming every cell in the embryo.
  • Also, capable of forming trophoblast cells of placenta.
  • Example: Zygote & first 4-8 blastomeres.

2) Pluripotent Stem Cells:

  • Capable of forming all cell types of embryo.
  • NOT capable of forming trophoblast.
  • Capable of producing all three germ layer cells, also, of producing germ cells.
  • Example: Cells derived from inner cell mass of mammalian blastocyst.
  • Germ cells & germ cell tumors can also form pluripotent stem cells.

3) Multipotent Stem Cells:

  • Capable of forming relatively small subset of all possible body cells.
  • Usually adult stem cells.
  • Example: Hematopoietic stem cells – forms granulocyte, platelet & RBC lineages; Mammary stem cells – forms mammary gland cell types.

4) Unipotent Stem Cells:

  • Capable of generating a particular cell type.
  • Example: Spermatogonia – give rise to only sperms.
S.No.TerminologyType of Cells
1Committed Stem Cellsa) Multipotent stem cells
b) Unipotent stem cells  

(Since, they have potential to become relatively few cell types.)
2Lineage Restricted Cellsa) Unipotent stem cells
b) Progenitor cells
Common Terminology for some Cells in Developmental Biology

Progenitor Cells:

  • Capable of dividing only a few times before differentiating.
  • NOT capable of self renewal.
  • Also called, Transit-Amplifying Cells (Since, they usually divide while migrating away from stem cell niche).
  • Usually more differentiated than stem cells.
  • Have become committed for becoming a particular cell type.

Harjeet Kaur

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