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Nat Immunol. 2012 Jun 17;13(8):729-36. doi: 10.1038/ni.2352.

The Ets transcription factor Spi-B is essential for the differentiation of intestinal microfold cells.

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Laboratory for Epithelial Immunobiology, Research Center for Allergy and Immunology, The Institute of Physical and Chemical Research (RIKEN), Kanagawa, Japan.


Intestinal microfold cells (M cells) are an enigmatic lineage of intestinal epithelial cells that initiate mucosal immune responses through the uptake and transcytosis of luminal antigens. The mechanisms of M-cell differentiation are poorly understood, as the rarity of these cells has hampered analysis. Exogenous administration of the cytokine RANKL can synchronously activate M-cell differentiation in mice. Here we show the Ets transcription factor Spi-B was induced early during M-cell differentiation. Absence of Spi-B silenced the expression of various M-cell markers and prevented the differentiation of M cells in mice. The activation of T cells via an oral route was substantially impaired in the intestine of Spi-B-deficient (Spib(-/-)) mice. Our study demonstrates that commitment to the intestinal M-cell lineage requires Spi-B as a candidate master regulator.

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