[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The small intestinal epithelium is the most rapidly self-renewing tissue of mammals. Proliferative cells are confined to crypts, while differentiated cell types predominantly occupy the villi. We recently demonstrated the existence of a long-lived pool of cycling stem cells defined by Lgr5 expression and intermingled with post-mitotic Paneth cells at crypt bottoms. We have now determined a gene signature for these Lgr5 stem cells. One of the genes within this stem cell signature is the Wnt target Achaete scute-like 2 (Ascl2). Transgenic expression of the Ascl2 transcription factor throughout the intestinal epithelium induces crypt hyperplasia and ectopic crypts on villi. Induced deletion of the Ascl2 gene in adult small intestine leads to disappearance of the Lgr5 stem cells within days. The combined results from these gain- and loss-of-function experiments imply that Ascl2 controls intestinal stem cell fate.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: In colorectal cancer, activating mutations in the Wnt pathway transform epithelial cells through the inappropriate expression of a TCF4 target gene program, which is physiologically expressed in intestinal crypts.
We have now performed an exhaustive array-based analysis of this target gene program in colorectal cancer cell lines carrying an inducible block of the Wnt cascade. Independently, differential gene-expression profiles of human adenomas and adenocarcinomas vs normal colonic epithelium were obtained.
Expression analyses of approximately 80 genes common between these data sets were performed in a murine adenoma model. The combined data sets describe a core target gene program, the intestinal Wnt/TCF signature gene set, which is responsible for the transformation of human intestinal epithelial cells.
The genes were invariably expressed in adenomas, yet could be subdivided into 3 modules, based on expression in distinct crypt compartments. A module of 17 genes was specifically expressed at the position of the crypt stem cell.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have designed a doxycycline-regulated form of the H1 promoter of RNA polymerase III that allows the inducible knockdown of gene expression by small interfering RNAs (siRNAs). As a proof-of-principle, we have targeted beta-catenin in colorectal cancer (CRC) cells. T-cell factor (TCF) target-gene expression is induced by accumulated beta-catenin, and is the main transforming event in these cells. We have shown previously that the disruption of beta-catenin/TCF4 activity in CRC cells by the overexpression of dominant-negative TCF induces rapid G1 arrest and differentiation. Stable integration of our inducible siRNA vector allowed the rapid production of siRNAs on doxycycline induction, followed by specific downregulation of beta-catenin. In these CRC cells, TCF reporter-gene activity was inhibited, and G1 arrest and differentiation occurred. The inhibition of two other genes using this vector system shows that it should be useful for the inducible knockdown of gene expression.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The transactivation of TCF target genes induced by Wnt pathway mutations constitutes the primary transforming event in colorectal cancer (CRC). We show that disruption of beta-catenin/TCF-4 activity in CRC cells induces a rapid G1 arrest and blocks a genetic program that is physiologically active in the proliferative compartment of colon crypts. Coincidently, an intestinal differentiation program is induced. The TCF-4 target gene c-MYC plays a central role in this switch by direct repression of the p21(CIP1/WAF1) promoter. Following disruption of beta-catenin/TCF-4 activity, the decreased expression of c-MYC releases p21(CIP1/WAF1) transcription, which in turn mediates G1 arrest and differentiation. Thus, the beta-catenin/TCF-4 complex constitutes the master switch that controls proliferation versus differentiation in healthy and malignant intestinal epithelial cells.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cells in a developing embryo communicate with each other through a limited number of intercellular signalling pathways, of which the Wnt signalling pathway is one. Little is known about the function of Wnt signalling beyond that in embryogenesis. However, recent insights into the molecular etiology of colon cancer have implied a central role for the Wnt signalling pathway. The malignant transformation of colorectal epithelium is well defined, leading to adenoma and sequentially carcinoma formation. Several genes that regulate the Wnt pathway are mutated in cancer of the human colon and other organs. All of these mutations lead to the inappropriate activation of the pathway, which instructs the cell to divide unrestrictedly. These insights now allow the Wnt pathway to be exploited as a new target for drug development in colon cancer.
European Journal of Clinical Investigation 07/2002; 32(6):448-57. DOI:10.1046/j.1365-2362.2002.01004.x · 2.83 Impact Factor