Epigenetic control of cellular crosstalk defines gastrointestinal organ fate and function

Nat Commun. 2023 Jan 30;14(1):497. doi: 10.1038/s41467-023-36228-2.


Epithelial-mesenchymal signaling in the gastrointestinal system is vital in establishing regional identity during organogenesis and maintaining adult stem cell homeostasis. Although recent work has demonstrated that Wnt ligands expressed by mesenchymal cells are required during gastrointestinal development and stem cell homeostasis, epigenetic mechanisms driving spatiotemporal control of crosstalk remain unknown. Here, we demonstrate that gastrointestinal mesenchymal cells control epithelial fate and function through Polycomb Repressive Complex 2-mediated chromatin bivalency. We find that while key lineage-determining genes possess tissue-specific chromatin accessibility, Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 controls Wnt expression in mesenchymal cells without altering accessibility. We show that reduction of mesenchymal Wnt secretion rescues gastrointestinal fate and proliferation defects caused by Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 loss. We demonstrate that mesenchymal Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 also regulates niche signals to maintain stem cell function in the adult intestine. Our results highlight a broadly permissive chromatin architecture underlying regionalization in mesenchymal cells, then demonstrate further how chromatin architecture in niches can influence the fate and function of neighboring cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Chromatin / genetics
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Gastrointestinal Tract* / metabolism
  • Intestines*
  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2 / metabolism


  • Polycomb Repressive Complex 2
  • Chromatin