The mucus layer in the intestine affects several aspects of intestinal biology, encompassing physical, chemical protection, immunomodulation and growth, thus contributing to homeostasis. Mice with genetic inactivation of the Muc2 gene, encoding the MUC2 mucin, the major protein component of mucus, exhibit altered intestinal homeostasis, which is strictly dependent on the habitat, likely due to differing complements of intestinal microbes. Our previous work established that Muc2 deficiency was linked to low chronic inflammation resulting in tumor development in the small, large intestine including the rectum. Here, we report that inactivation of Muc2 alters metabolic pathways in the normal appearing mucosa of Muc2-/- mice. Comparative analysis of gene expression profiling of isolated intestinal epithelial cells (IECs) and the entire intestinal mucosa, encompassing IECs, immune and stromal cells underscored that more than 50% of the changes were common to both sets of data, suggesting that most alterations were IEC-specific. IEC-specific expression data highlighted perturbation of lipid absorption, processing and catabolism linked to altered Pparα signaling in IECs. Concomitantly, alterations of glucose metabolism induced expression of genes linked to de novo lipogenesis, a characteristic of tumor cells. Importantly, gene expression alterations characterizing Muc2-/- IECs are similar to those observed when analyzing the gene expression signature of IECs along the crypt-villus axis in WT B6 mice, suggesting that Muc2-/- IECs display a crypt-like gene expression signature. Thus, our data strongly suggest that decreased lipid metabolism, and alterations in glucose utilization characterize the crypt proliferative compartment, and may represent a molecular signature of pre-neoplastic lesions.
Keywords: MUC2; inflammation; metabolism; mucin; tumorigenesis.