The homeodomain transcription factors Cdx1 and Cdx2 are expressed in the intestinal epithelium from early development, with expression persisting throughout the life of the animal. While our understanding of the function of Cdx members in intestinal development has advanced significantly, their roles in the adult intestine is relatively poorly understood. In the present study, we found that ablation of Cdx2 in the adult small intestine severely impacted villus morphology, proliferation and intestinal gene expression patterns, resulting in the demise of the animal. Long-term loss of Cdx2 in a chimeric model resulted in loss of all differentiated intestinal cell types and partial conversion of the mucosa to a gastric-like epithelium. Concomitant loss of Cdx1 did not exacerbate any of these phenotypes. Loss of Cdx2 in the colon was associated with a shift to a cecum-like epithelial morphology and gain of cecum-associated genes which was more pronounced with subsequent loss of Cdx1. These findings suggest that Cdx2 is essential for differentiation of the small intestinal epithelium, and that both Cdx1 and Cdx2 contribute to homeostasis of the colon.
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