Background: Mammalian Anterior Gradient 2 (AGR2) is a protein disulfide isomerase that is required for the production of intestinal mucus and Paneth and goblet cell homeostasis. However, whether increased endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress occurs in Agr2(-/-) mice remains a controversial issue.
Methodology/principal findings: We characterized the function of zebrafish agr2 by both morpholino antisense oligomer-mediated knockdown and agr2 mRNA overexpression. Fluorescent whole-mount double in situ hybridization indicated that in the intestine, agr2 was only expressed in goblet cells. Significantly increased numbers of immature Alcian blue-stained goblet cells were observed in the intestines of 104- and 120-hours post fertilization (hpf) agr2 morphants. Transmission electron microscopy analyses further confirmed the existence of immature pre-goblet cells containing few mucous granules in the mid-intestines of 104- and 120-hpf agr2 morphants. agr2 expression was not significantly induced by an ER stress inducer, tunicamycin. Expression of the ER chaperone gene hspa5, the spliced form of xbp1s, c/enhancer binding protein homologous protein chop, and the activating transcription factor 4b1 atf4b1 were not significantly induced in either 104-hpf agr2 morphants or agr2-overexpressed embryos. Similar percentages of P-Histone H3-stained M phase cells were identified in intestines of 104-hpf agr2 morphants and control embryos.
Conclusions/significance: Our study demonstrates that in contrast to mouse AGR2, zebrafish Agr2 is expressed in only one intestinal secretory cell type - the goblet cells. Agr2 is essential for terminal differentiation of intestinal goblet cells in zebrafish embryos. Either knockdown of agr2 function or agr2 overexpression could not extensively induce expression of members of the unfolded protein response pathway.