The Viral Mimetic Polyinosinic:Polycytidylic Acid Alters the Growth Characteristics of Small Intestinal and Colonic Crypt Cultures

PLoS One. 2015 Sep 28;10(9):e0138531. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0138531. eCollection 2015.


Background & aims: The intestinal epithelium is the first line of defense against enteric pathogens. We investigated the response of small intestinal and colonic crypt cultures to a panel of toll-like receptor ligands to assess the impact of microbial pattern recognition on epithelial growth.

Methods: Primary murine jejunal enteroids and colonoids were cultured with lipopeptide Pam3CSK4, lipopolysaccharide (LPS) or polyinosinic:polycytidylic acid (Poly I:C) for 4 to 6 days. Surface area, budding and survival were assessed. Proliferation and numbers of lysozyme positive cells were quantified by flow cytometry. Gene expression was assessed by Nanostring and qRT-PCR.

Results: Exposure to Pam3CSK4 and LPS had minimal impact on either enteroids or colonoids. In contrast, Poly I:C increased the surface area of enteroids, while colonoids demonstrated decreased budding. Survival was decreased by Poly I:C in enteroids but not in colonoids. Both enteroids and colonoids exhibited upregulated gene expression of chemokines, but these were increased in magnitude in enteroids. Decreases in gene expression associated with epithelial differentiation and lysozyme positive cells were more apparent in enteroids than in colonoids. Baseline gene expression between enteroids and colonoids differed markedly in levels of stem cell and inflammatory markers. The changes in morphology induced by Poly I:C were mediated by the toll-like receptor adaptor molecule 1 (Ticam1) in enteroids but not in colonoids.

Conclusions: Poly I:C alters the molecular program of epithelial cells and shifts from absorption and digestion towards defense and inflammation. Diversity of responses to microbial patterns in enteroids and colonoids may underlie differences in susceptibility to infection along the intestinal tract.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Shape / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Colon / cytology*
  • Down-Regulation / drug effects
  • Intestine, Small / cytology*
  • Jejunum / cytology
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Muramidase / metabolism
  • Organoids / cytology
  • Poly I-C / pharmacology*
  • RNA, Double-Stranded / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Adaptor Proteins, Vesicular Transport
  • Biomarkers
  • RNA, Double-Stranded
  • Muramidase
  • Poly I-C