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Dev Biol. 2009 Jul 1;331(1):58-67. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2009.04.020. Epub 2009 Apr 24.

LGR5 deficiency deregulates Wnt signaling and leads to precocious Paneth cell differentiation in the fetal intestine.

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Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire en Biologie Humaine et Moléculaire (IRIBHM), Faculty of Medicine, Université Libre de Bruxelles, 1070 Brussels, Belgium.


The orphan Leucine-rich repeat G protein-coupled receptor 5 (LGR5/GPR49), a target of Wnt signaling, is a marker of adult intestinal stem cells (SC). However, neither its function in the adults, nor during development of the intestine have been addressed yet. In this report, we investigated the role of LGR5 during ileal development by using LGR5 null/LacZ-NeoR knock-in mice. X-gal staining experiments showed that, after villus morphogenesis, Lgr5 expression becomes restricted to dividing cells clustered in the intervillus region and is more pronounced in the distal small intestine. At day E18.5, LGR5 deficiency leads to premature Paneth cell differentiation in the small intestine without detectable effects on differentiation of other cell lineages, nor on epithelial cell proliferation or migration. Quantitative RT-PCR experiments showed that expression from the LGR5 promoter was upregulated in LGR5-null mice, pointing to the existence of an autoregulatory negative feedback loop in intact animals. This deregulation was associated with overexpression of Wnt target genes in the intervillus epithelium. Transcriptional profiling of mutant mice ileums revealed that LGR5 function is associated with expression of SC and SC niche markers. Together, our data identify LGR5 as a negative regulator of the Wnt pathway in the developing intestine.

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