Impact of diet-induced obesity on intestinal stem cells: hyperproliferation but impaired intrinsic function that requires insulin/IGF1

Endocrinology. 2014 Sep;155(9):3302-14. doi: 10.1210/en.2014-1112. Epub 2014 Jun 10.


Nutrient intake regulates intestinal epithelial mass and crypt proliferation. Recent findings in model organisms and rodents indicate nutrient restriction impacts intestinal stem cells (ISC). Little is known about the impact of diet-induced obesity (DIO), a model of excess nutrient intake on ISC. We used a Sox9-EGFP reporter mouse to test the hypothesis that an adaptive response to DIO or associated hyperinsulinemia involves expansion and hyperproliferation of ISC. The Sox9-EGFP reporter mouse allows study and isolation of ISC, progenitors, and differentiated lineages based on different Sox9-EGFP expression levels. Sox9-EGFP mice were fed a high-fat diet for 20 weeks to induce DIO and compared with littermates fed low-fat rodent chow. Histology, fluorescence activated cell sorting, and mRNA analyses measured impact of DIO on jejunal crypt-villus morphometry, numbers, and proliferation of different Sox9-EGFP cell populations and gene expression. An in vitro culture assay directly assessed functional capacity of isolated ISC. DIO mice exhibited significant increases in body weight, plasma glucose, insulin, and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) levels and intestinal Igf1 mRNA. DIO mice had increased villus height and crypt density but decreased intestinal length and decreased numbers of Paneth and goblet cells. In vivo, DIO resulted in a selective expansion of Sox9-EGFP(Low) ISC and percentage of ISC in S-phase. ISC expansion significantly correlated with plasma insulin levels. In vitro, isolated ISC from DIO mice formed fewer enteroids in standard 3D Matrigel culture compared to controls, indicating impaired ISC function. This decreased enteroid formation in isolated ISC from DIO mice was rescued by exogenous insulin, IGF1, or both. We conclude that DIO induces specific increases in ISC and ISC hyperproliferation in vivo. However, isolated ISC from DIO mice have impaired intrinsic survival and growth in vitro that can be rescued by exogenous insulin or IGF1.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Proliferation*
  • Diet, High-Fat / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism*
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Intestines / cytology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Signal Transduction
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I