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Development. 2011 Oct;138(20):4423-32. doi: 10.1242/dev.065789. Epub 2011 Aug 31.

Cell dynamics in fetal intestinal epithelium: implications for intestinal growth and morphogenesis.

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  • 1Department of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48109-2200, USA.


The cellular mechanisms that drive growth and remodeling of the early intestinal epithelium are poorly understood. Current dogma suggests that the murine fetal intestinal epithelium is stratified, that villi are formed by an epithelial remodeling process involving the de novo formation of apical surface at secondary lumina, and that radial intercalation of the stratified cells constitutes a major intestinal lengthening mechanism. Here, we investigate cell polarity, cell cycle dynamics and cell shape in the fetal murine intestine between E12.5 and E14.5. We show that, contrary to previous assumptions, this epithelium is pseudostratified. Furthermore, epithelial nuclei exhibit interkinetic nuclear migration, a process wherein nuclei move in concert with the cell cycle, from the basal side (where DNA is synthesized) to the apical surface (where mitosis takes place); such nuclear movements were previously misinterpreted as the radial intercalation of cells. We further demonstrate that growth of epithelial girth between E12.5 and E14.5 is driven by microtubule- and actinomyosin-dependent apicobasal elongation, rather than by progressive epithelial stratification as was previously thought. Finally, we show that the actin-binding protein Shroom3 is crucial for the maintenance of the single-layered pseudostratified epithelium. In mice lacking Shroom3, the epithelium is disorganized and temporarily stratified during villus emergence. These results favor an alternative model of intestinal morphogenesis in which the epithelium remains single layered and apicobasally polarized throughout early intestinal development.

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