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Deconstructing the complexity of a microenvironmental niche.
Cell.Mar 30, 2012;149(1):16-7.
Krause DS, Scadden DT.
Department of Pathology, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA 02114, USA.
Cells acquire their fate in vivo in the context of a complex microenvironmental "niche" comprised of heterologous cell types, signaling molecules, extracellular matrix, biophysical forces, and metabolic substrates. Now Calderón and Boehm report the "refunctionalization" of a defective thymic epithelial niche, offering insights into how signaling molecules may be hierarchically organized to direct differentiation outcomes.