Wnt signaling regulates small intestinal stem cell maintenance and Paneth cell differentiation. In patients with ileal Crohn's disease (CD), a decrease of Paneth cell α-defensins has been observed that is partially caused by impaired TCF-4 and LRP6 function. Here we show reduced expression of the Wnt signaling effector TCF-1 (also known as TCF-7) in patients with ileal CD. Reporter gene assays and in vitro promoter binding analysis revealed that TCF-1 activates α-defensin HD-5 and HD-6 transcription in cooperation with β-catenin and that activation is mediated by three distinct TCF binding sites. EMSA analysis showed binding of TCF-1 to the respective motifs. In ileal CD patients, TCF-1 mRNA expression levels were significantly reduced. Moreover, we found specifically reduced expression of active TCF-1 mRNA isoforms. Tcf-1 knockout mice exhibited reduced cryptdin expression in the jejunum, which was not consistently seen at other small intestinal locations. Our data provide evidence that TCF-1-mediated Wnt signaling is disturbed in small intestinal CD, which might contribute to the observed barrier dysfunction in the disease.
Keywords: Crohn's disease; Paneth cells; TCF-1; Wnt signaling; defensins.
Copyright © 2014 the American Physiological Society.