Interleukin 22 Expands Transit-Amplifying Cells While Depleting Lgr5+ Stem Cells via Inhibition of Wnt and Notch Signaling

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2019;7(2):255-274. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmgh.2018.09.006. Epub 2018 Sep 18.


Background & aims: Epithelial regeneration is essential for homeostasis and repair of the mucosal barrier. In the context of infectious and immune-mediated intestinal disease, interleukin (IL) 22 is thought to augment these processes. We sought to define the mechanisms by which IL22 promotes mucosal healing.

Methods: Intestinal stem cell cultures and mice were treated with recombinant IL22. Cell proliferation, death, and differentiation were assessed in vitro and in vivo by morphometric analysis, quantitative reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction, and immunohistochemistry.

Results: IL22 increased the size and number of proliferating cells within enteroids but decreased the total number of enteroids. Enteroid size increases required IL22-dependent up-regulation of the tight junction cation and water channel claudin-2, indicating that enteroid enlargement reflected paracellular flux-induced swelling. However, claudin-2 did not contribute to IL22-dependent enteroid loss, depletion of Lgr5+ stem cells, or increased epithelial proliferation. IL22 induced stem cell apoptosis but, conversely, enhanced proliferation within and expanded numbers of transit-amplifying cells. These changes were associated with reduced wnt and notch signaling, both in vitro and in vivo, as well as skewing of epithelial differentiation, with increases in Paneth cells and reduced numbers of enteroendocrine cells.

Conclusions: IL22 promotes transit-amplifying cell proliferation but reduces Lgr5+ stem cell survival by inhibiting notch and wnt signaling. IL22 can therefore promote or inhibit mucosal repair, depending on whether effects on transit-amplifying or stem cells predominate. These data may explain why mucosal healing is difficult to achieve in some inflammatory bowel disease patients despite markedly elevated IL22 production.

Keywords: Enteroid; Interleukin 22; Intestinal Stem Cell; Regeneration; Transit-Amplifying Cell; claudin-2; notch; tight junction; wnt.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Differentiation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Claudin-2 / metabolism
  • Enterocytes / cytology
  • Enterocytes / drug effects
  • Enterocytes / metabolism
  • Interleukins / pharmacology*
  • Intestines / cytology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Organoids / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism*
  • Receptors, Notch / metabolism*
  • Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Stem Cells / drug effects
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Wnt Signaling Pathway / drug effects*


  • Biomarkers
  • Claudin-2
  • Interleukins
  • Lgr5 protein, mouse
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • Receptors, Notch
  • interleukin-22