Candidate stem/progenitor cells have been identified in mouse endometrium as label-retaining cells (LRCs). The role of endometrial stem/progenitor cells in initiating estrogen-stimulated endometrial growth in prepubertal and cycling mice was investigated following a single 17beta-estradiol (E2) injection in bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU)-labeled and -chased (LRC), ovariectomised mice. Proliferating (BrdU(+)/Ki-67(+)) and mitotic (BrdU(+)/PH3(+)) epithelial LRCs were first detected in prepubertal mice 8 hours following E2 treatment, initiating the proliferative response. In contrast, all epithelial LRCs and 16 of epithelial cells in cycling mice proliferated within 2 hours. In cycling mice, 12 of stromal LRCs initiated a proliferative response 8 hours after E2. Proliferating epithelial LRCs and most stromal LRCs (85 ) lacked estrogen receptor-alpha (ESR1). These findings suggest that endometrial epithelial LRCs function as stem/progenitor cells by receiving proliferative signals from neighboring ESR1(+) niche cells to initiate the growth of the epithelium during development, while mature epithelial cells may undergo self-replication in cycling endometrium.