• C-kit;
  • Kidney stem cells;
  • Clonogenicity;
  • Self-renewal;
  • Multipotentiality;
  • Regenerative potential


The presence of tissue specific precursor cells is an emerging concept in organ formation and tissue homeostasis. Several progenitors are described in the kidneys. However, their identity as a true stem cell remains elusive. Here, we identify a neonatal kidney-derived c-kit+ cell population that fulfills all of the criteria as a stem cell. These cells were found in the thick ascending limb of Henle's loop and exhibited clonogenicity, self-renewal, and multipotentiality with differentiation capacity into mesoderm and ectoderm progeny. Additionally, c-kit+ cells formed spheres in nonadherent conditions when plated at clonal density and expressed markers of stem cells, progenitors, and differentiated cells. Ex vivo expanded c-kit+ cells integrated into several compartments of the kidney, including tubules, vessels, and glomeruli, and contributed to functional and morphological improvement of the kidney following acute ischemia-reperfusion injury in rats. Together, these findings document a novel neonatal rat kidney c-kit+ stem cell population that can be isolated, expanded, cloned, differentiated, and used for kidney repair following acute kidney injury. These cells have important biological and therapeutic implications. STEM Cells 2013;31:1644–1656