Background and aims: SPDEF (also termed PDEF or PSE) is an ETS family transcription factor that regulates gene expression in the prostate and goblet cell hyperplasia in the lung. Spdef has been reported to be expressed in the intestine. In this paper, we identify an important role for Spdef in regulating intestinal epithelial cell homeostasis and differentiation.
Methods: SPDEF expression was inhibited in colon cancer cells to determine its ability to control goblet cell gene activation. The effects of transgenic expression of Spdef on intestinal differentiation and homeostasis were determined.
Results: In LS174T colon cancer cells treated with Notch/gamma-secretase inhibitor to activate goblet cell gene expression, shRNAs that inhibited SPDEF also repressed expression of goblet cell genes AGR2, MUC2, RETLNB, and SPINK4. Transgenic expression of Spdef caused the expansion of intestinal goblet cells and corresponding reduction in Paneth, enteroendocrine, and absorptive enterocytes. Spdef inhibited proliferation of intestinal crypt cells without induction of apoptosis. Prolonged expression of the Spdef transgene caused a progressive reduction in the number of crypts that expressed Spdef, consistent with its inhibitory effects on cell proliferation.
Conclusions: Spdef was sufficient to inhibit proliferation of intestinal progenitors and induce differentiation into goblet cells; SPDEF was required for activation of goblet cell associated genes in vitro. These data support a model in which Spdef promotes terminal differentiation into goblet cells of a common goblet/Paneth progenitor.
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