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Am J Physiol. 1996 Jul;271(1 Pt 1):G68-74.

Positional specificity of defensin gene expression reveals Paneth cell heterogeneity in mouse small intestine.

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Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.


Cryptdins are antimicrobial peptides of the defensin family that are expressed specifically by Paneth cells in small intestinal crypts (M.E. Selsted, S.I. Miller, A.H. Henschen, and A.J. Ouellette. J. Cell Biol. 118: 929-936, 1992), and at least 17 cryptdin isoforms have been reported in mouse small intestine (A.J. Ouellette, M.M. Hsieh, M.T. Nosek, D.F. Cano-Gauci, K.M. Huttner, R.N. Buick, and M.E. Selsted. Infect. Immun. 62: 5040-5047, 1994). Analysis of cryptdin gene expression in adult mouse small bowel revealed that the cryptdin-4 isoform is differentially expressed along the proximal-to-distal intestinal axis. By peptide-specific reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction-based assays, cryptdin-4 mRNA was found to be absent from the proximal small bowel, increasing to maximal levels in the ileum. In contrast, intestinal content of cryptdin-1 and -5 mRNAs was equivalent in duodenum, jejunum, and ileum, and Northern blot hybridization experiments were consistent with both sets of data. Similarly, individual crypts isolated from duodenum contain cryptdin-1 mRNA but not cryptdin-4 mRNA. Taken together, the results show that Paneth cells are heterogeneous, depending on their position along the longitudinal axis of the small bowel. The positional specificity of defensin gene expression suggests that cryptdins may be useful markers for investigating the establishment and maintenance of this epithelial lineage in the mouse small intestine.

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