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Cell Mol Life Sci. 2015 Oct;72(20):3883-96. doi: 10.1007/s00018-015-1975-2. Epub 2015 Jul 1.

Mesenchymal-epithelial interactions during digestive tract development and epithelial stem cell regeneration.

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INSERM U1046, UMR CNRS 9214, Université de Montpellier, 34295, Montpellier, France.
INSERM U1046, UMR CNRS 9214, Université de Montpellier, 34295, Montpellier, France.


The gastrointestinal tract develops from a simple and uniform tube into a complex organ with specific differentiation patterns along the anterior-posterior and dorso-ventral axes of asymmetry. It is derived from all three germ layers and their cross-talk is important for the regulated development of fetal and adult gastrointestinal structures and organs. Signals from the adjacent mesoderm are essential for the morphogenesis of the overlying epithelium. These mesenchymal-epithelial interactions govern the development and regionalization of the different gastrointestinal epithelia and involve most of the key morphogens and signaling pathways, such as the Hedgehog, BMPs, Notch, WNT, HOX, SOX and FOXF cascades. Moreover, the mechanisms underlying mesenchyme differentiation into smooth muscle cells influence the regionalization of the gastrointestinal epithelium through interactions with the enteric nervous system. In the neonatal and adult gastrointestinal tract, mesenchymal-epithelial interactions are essential for the maintenance of the epithelial regionalization and digestive epithelial homeostasis. Disruption of these interactions is also associated with bowel dysfunction potentially leading to epithelial tumor development. In this review, we will discuss various aspects of the mesenchymal-epithelial interactions observed during digestive epithelium development and differentiation and also during epithelial stem cell regeneration.


Anterior-posterior axis; BMP pathway; Colorectal cancer; Enteric nervous system; Epithelial cell; FOXF; Gastrointestinal tract; Hedgehog; Homeotic HOX genes; Mesenchymal–epithelial interactions; Metaplasia; Myofibroblast; NKX2.5; Notch pathway; Regeneration; SOX9; Smooth muscle cell; Stem cell

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