Background & aims: Symplekin is a ubiquitously expressed protein involved in RNA polyadenylation and transcriptional regulation that localizes at tight junctions in epithelial cells. The association between symplekin and the Y-box transcription factor ZONAB activates proliferation in intestinal and kidney cells. We analyzed symplekin expression in human colonic crypts and investigated its function in differentiation.
Methods: Expression of differentiation markers and transcription factors was assessed in HT29-Cl.16E cells that expressed inducible symplekin short hairpin RNA or were transfected with ZONAB small interfering RNAs. Intestines of AML1(Delta/Delta) mice were stained with alcian blue and analyzed for expression of AML1/Runx1, GAPDH, KLF-4, and Muc-2. Mobility shift and chromatin immunoprecipitation were used to detect AML1 and ZONAB/DbpA binding to promoter regions of the Krüppel-like factor 4 (KLF4) and acute myeloid leukemia-1 (AML1) genes, respectively.
Results: The gradient of nuclear symplekin expression decreased from the proliferative toward the differentiated compartment of colonic crypts; symplekin down-regulation promoted the differentiation of HT29-Cl.16E colorectal carcinoma cells into goblet cells. Down-regulation of symplekin or ZONAB/Dbpa induced de novo expression of the transcription factor AML1/Runx1, thereby increasing the expression of KLF4 and promoting goblet cell differentiation. Furthermore, increased AML1 expression was required for the induction of goblet cell differentiation after symplekin down-regulation. KLF4 expression and goblet cell numbers were reduced in the intestines of AML1(Delta/Delta) mice, confirming the role of AML1 as a promoter of intestinal differentiation in vivo.
Conclusions: Symplekin cooperates with ZONAB to negatively regulate intestinal goblet cell differentiation, acting by repression of AML1 and KLF4.