Emerging evidences suggest that enteric glial cells (EGC), a major constituent of the enteric nervous system (ENS), are key regulators of intestinal epithelial barrier (IEB) functions. Indeed EGC inhibit intestinal epithelial cells (IEC) proliferation and increase IEB paracellular permeability. However, the role of EGC on other important barrier functions and the signalling pathways involved in their effects are currently unknown. To achieve this goal, we aimed at identifying the impact of EGC upon IEC transcriptome by performing microarray studies.
EGC induced significant changes in gene expression profiling of proliferating IEC after 24 hours of co-culture. 116 genes were identified as differentially expressed (70 up-regulated and 46 down-regulated) in IEC cultured with EGC compared to IEC cultured alone. By performing functional analysis of the 116 identified genes using Ingenuity Pathway Analysis, we showed that EGC induced a significant regulation of genes favoring both cell-to-cell and cell-to-matrix adhesion as well as cell differentiation. Consistently, functional studies showed that EGC induced a significant increase in cell adhesion. EGC also regulated genes involved in cell motility towards an enhancement of cell motility. In addition, EGC profoundly modulated expression of genes involved in cell proliferation and cell survival, although no clear functional trend could be identified. Finally, important genes involved in lipid and protein metabolism of epithelial cells were shown to be differentially regulated by EGC.
This study reinforces the emerging concept that EGC have major protective effects upon the IEB. EGC have a profound impact upon IEC transcriptome and induce a shift in IEC phenotype towards increased cell adhesion and cell differentiation. This concept needs to be further validated under both physiological and pathophysiological conditions.