Intestinal homeostasis and regeneration are driven by intestinal stem cells (ISCs) lying in the crypt. In addition to the actively cycling ISCs that maintain daily homeostasis, accumulating evidence supports the existence of other pools of stem/progenitor cells with the capacity to repair damaged tissue and facilitate rapid restoration of intestinal integrity after injuries. Appropriate control of ISCs and other populations of intestinal epithelial cells with stem cell activity is essential for intestinal homeostasis and regeneration while their deregulation is implicated in colorectal tumorigenesis. In this review, we will summarize the recent findings about ISC identity and cellular plasticity in intestine, discuss regulatory mechanisms that control ISCs for intestinal homeostasis and regeneration, and put a particular emphasis on extrinsic niche-derived signaling and intrinsic epigenetic regulation. Moreover, we highlight several fundamental questions about the precise mechanisms conferring robust capacity for intestine to maintain physiological homeostasis and repair injuries.
Keywords: Epigenetics; Homeostasis; Intestinal stem cell; Nich; Plasticity; Regeneration.