In vertebrates, stomach smooth muscle development is a complex process that involves the tight transcriptional or post-transcriptional regulation of different signalling pathways. Here, we identified the RNA-binding protein Epithelial Splicing Regulatory Protein 1 (ESRP1) as an early marker of developing and undifferentiated stomach mesenchyme. Using a gain-of-function approach, we found that in chicken embryos, sustained expression of ESRP1 impairs stomach smooth muscle cell (SMC) differentiation and FGFR2 splicing profile. ESRP1 overexpression in primary differentiated stomach SMCs induced their dedifferentiation, promoted specific-FGFR2b splicing and decreased FGFR2c-dependent activity. Moreover, co-expression of ESRP1 and RBPMS2, another RNA-binding protein that regulates SMC plasticity and Bone Morphogenetic Protein (BMP) pathway inhibition, synergistically promoted SMC dedifferentiation. Finally, we also demonstrated that ESRP1 interacts with RBPMS2 and that RBPMS2-mediated SMC dedifferentiation requires ESRP1. Altogether, these results show that ESRP1 is expressed also in undifferentiated stomach mesenchyme and demonstrate its role in SMC development and plasticity.
Keywords: Chick; ESRP1; FGF pathway; Gastrointestinal tract; RNA-binding protein; Smooth muscle.
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