Background & Aims
Caudal-related homeobox protein 2 (Cdx2) is an intestine-specific transcription factor that is important for intestinal development and intestine-specific gene expression. Cdx2 regulates intestinal cell–cell adhesion, proliferation, and the transcriptional activities of Wnt and β-catenin in cell culture systems. We generated transgenic mice that overexpress Cdx2 in the small intestinal and colonic epithelium to investigate the role of Cdx2 in differentiation and function of the intestinal epithelium.
We established 4 different lines of villin–Cdx2 transgenic mice. Intestines were collected from infant, 3-month old, and wild-type mice. Genes of interest and cell lineage markers were examined by PCR and immunohistochemistry.
Villin–Cdx2 transgenic mice had complex phenotypes that were associated with transgene expression levels. The 2 lines that had the greatest levels of transgene expression had significant, pre-weaning failure to grow and death; these were the result of early epithelial maturation and alterations in nutrient digestion and absorption. Fat malabsorption was a prominent feature. Other effects associated with the transgene expression included loss of Paneth cell markers, increases in goblet cells, and migration of proliferating, EphB2-expressing cells to the crypt base. Loss of Paneth cell markers was associated with reduced nuclear localization of β-catenin but not homeotic posteriorization of the epithelium by Cdx2.
Overexpression of Cdx2 in the small intestine is associated with reduced post-natal growth, early epithelial maturation, alterations in crypt base organization, and changes in Paneth and goblet cell lineages. Cdx2 is a critical regulator not only of intestine-specific genes, but also processes that determine epithelial maturity and function,
Keywords: Cdx2, β-catenin, Paneth cells, crypt maturation, intestinal development, intestinal cancer, transcriptional regulation