YAP/TAZ are the major mediators of mammalian Hippo signaling; however, their precise function in the gastrointestinal tract remains poorly understood. Here we dissect the distinct roles of YAP/TAZ in endodermal epithelium and mesenchyme and find that, although dispensable for gastrointestinal epithelial development and homeostasis, YAP/TAZ function as the critical molecular switch to coordinate growth and patterning in gut mesenchyme. Our genetic analyses reveal that Lats1/2 kinases suppress expansion of the primitive mesenchymal progenitors, where YAP activation also prevents induction of the smooth muscle lineage through transcriptional repression of Myocardin. During later development, zone-restricted downregulation of YAP/TAZ provides the positional cue and allows smooth muscle cell differentiation induced by Hedgehog signaling. Taken together, our studies identify the mesenchymal requirement of YAP/TAZ in the gastrointestinal tract and highlight the functional interplays between Hippo and Hedgehog signaling underlying temporal and spatial control of tissue growth and specification in developing gut.
Keywords: Hedgehog; Hippo; Lats1/2; YAP/TAZ; differentiation; growth; intestine; mesenchyme; patterning; smooth muscle.
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