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J Surg Res. 2012 Sep;177(1):139-45. doi: 10.1016/j.jss.2012.04.024. Epub 2012 Apr 29.

Formation of intestinal atresias in the Fgfr2IIIb-/- mice is not associated with defects in notochord development or alterations in Shh expression.

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  • 1University of Wisconsin SMPH-Department of Surgery, Section of Pediatric Surgery, Madison, Wisconsin 53792, USA.



The etiology of intestinal atresia remains elusive but has been ascribed to a number of possible events including in utero vascular accidents, failure of recanalization of the intestinal lumen, and mechanical compression. Another such event that has been postulated to be a cause in atresia formation is disruption in notochord development. This hypothesis arose from clinical observations of notochord abnormalities in patients with intestinal atresias as well as abnormal notochord development observed in a pharmacologic animal model of intestinal atresia. Atresias in this model result from in utero exposure to Adriamycin, wherein notochord defects were noted in up to 80% of embryos that manifested intestinal atresias. Embryos with notochord abnormalities were observed to have ectopic expression of Sonic Hedgehog (Shh), which in turn was postulated to be causative in atresia formation. We were interested in determining whether disruptions in notochord development or Shh expression occurred in an established genetic model of intestinal atresia and used the fibroblast growth factor receptor 2IIIb homozygous mutant (Fgfr2IIIb-/-) mouse model. These embryos develop colonic atresias (100% penetrance) and duodenal atresias (42% penetrance).


Wild-type and Fgfr2IIIb-/- mouse embryos were harvested at embryonic day (E) 10.5, E11.5, E12.5, and E13.5. Whole-mount in situ hybridization was performed on E10.5 embryos for Shh. Embryos at each time point were harvested and sectioned for hematoxylin-eosin staining. Sections were photographed specifically for the notochord and resulting images reconstructed in 3-D using Amira software. Colons were isolated from wild-type and Fgfr2IIIb-/- embryos at E10.5, then cultured for 48 hours in Matrigel with FGF10 in the presence or absence of exogenous Shh protein. Explants were harvested, fixed in formalin, and photographed.


Fgfr2IIIb-/- mouse embryos exhibit no disruptions in Shh expression at E10.5, when the first events in atresia formation are known to occur. Three-dimensional reconstructions failed to demonstrate any anatomical disruptions in the notochord by discontinuity or excessive branching. Culture of wild-type intestines in the presence of Shh failed to induce atresia formation in either the duodenum or colon. Cultured Fgfr2IIIb-/- intestines developed atresias of the colon in either the presence or absence of Shh protein.


Although disruptions in notochord development can be associated with intestinal atresia formation, in the Fgfr2IIIb-/- genetic animal model neither disruptions in notochord development nor the presence of exogenous Shh protein are causative in the formation of these defects.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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