Diverse patterns of cell-specific gene expression in response to glucocorticoid in the developing small intestine

Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2006 Dec;291(6):G1041-50. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00139.2006. Epub 2006 Jul 6.


Although glucocorticoids are known to elicit functional maturation of the gastrointestinal tract, the molecular mechanisms of glucocorticoid action on the developing intestine have not been fully elucidated. Our previous microarray studies identified 66 transcripts as being rapidly induced in the jejunum following dexamethasone (Dex) administration to suckling mice. Now we report the specific cellular location of a subset of these transcripts. Mouse pups at P8 received Dex or vehicle and intestinal segments were collected 3-4 h later. Robotic-based in situ hybridization (ISH) was performed with digoxygenin-labeled riboprobes. Transcripts studied included Ndrg1, Sgk1, Fos, and two unknown genes (Gene 9 and Gene 36). As predicted, ISH revealed marked diversity of cellular expression. In small intestinal segments, Sgk1 mRNA was in all epithelial cells; Fos mRNA was confined to epithelial cells at the villus tip; and Ndrg1 and Gene 36 mRNAs were localized to epithelial cells of the upper crypt and villus base. The remaining transcript (Gene 9) was induced modestly in villus stroma and strongly in the muscle layers. In the colon, Ndrg1, Sgk1, and Gene 36 were induced in all epithelial cells; Gene 9 was in muscle layers only; and Fos was not detectable. For jejunal segments, quantitation of ISH signals in tissue from Dex-treated and vehicle-treated mice demonstrated mRNA increases very similar to those measured by Northern blotting. We conclude that glucocorticoid action in the intestine reflects diverse molecular mechanisms operating in different cell types and that quantitative ISH is a valuable tool for studying hormone action in this tissue.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Dexamethasone / administration & dosage*
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental / physiology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / cytology*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / drug effects
  • Intestinal Mucosa / physiology*
  • Intestine, Small / cytology*
  • Intestine, Small / drug effects
  • Intestine, Small / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism*


  • Transcription Factors
  • Dexamethasone