This revised new R01 application focuses on pathways regulating intestinal epithelial cell homeostasis. The project investigates the role of th Notch signaling pathway for regulation of intestinal stem cells, examining both active and quiescent stem cell populations marked by Lgr5, Olfm4, Bmi1, and Lrig1. Notch is well established as a critical regulator of cell fate via regulation of the secretory lineage- specific transcription factor Atoh1. Our recent studies have shown that Notch also plays a distinct role in the maintenance of intestinal stem cells in an Atoh1-independent mechanism and this finding serves as the underlying rationale for this application. We have established that chronic Notch inhibition in adult mice results in decreased progenitor cell proliferation and a marked decrease in expression of the crypt base columnar cell (CBC) marker Olfm4. Furthermore, these studies demonstrated that the actively cycling crypt base columnar stem cell (CBC) is a direct cellular Notch target and that disruption of Notch signaling results in loss of CBCs. The overriding hypothesis for this proposal is: Notch signaling regulates the transition from ISC to fated progenitor cells and loss of Notch signaling leads to depletion of the stem cell pool and activation of quiescent stem cells to replenish the pool. To test this hypothesis studies will examine intact mouse models (genetic and pharmacologic), mouse intestinal organoids and, importantly, a new human organoid model. This project will, for the first time, test whether Notch regulation of human intestine parallels the findings in the mouse. Genetic manipulation and marking of ISC cell populations in mouse will take advantage of Cre drivers specific for active or quiescent ISCs. Strains of floxed-gene mice will allow deletion or activation of Notch pathway components in specific ISC cell populations. RNA-Seq gene expression profiling will be used to identify Notch-responsive genes and computational modeling will inform our understanding of progenitor cell population dynamics.
Three specific aims are proposed: (1) Test the hypothesis that CBC stem cells are dynamically regulated by Notch signaling;(2) Test the hypothesis that Notch regulates the ability of quiescent stem cells to repopulate the active cycling stem and progenitor cell pool;(3) Test the hypothesis that Notch signaling regulates cellular differentiatin and stem cell function in human in vitro derived intestinal organoids. These studies are important to further our understanding of the function of different intestinal stem cell population and to characterize the importance of Notch signaling for human intestinal epithelial cell homeostasis. Since current human disease therapies are under design to target the Notch pathway, it is crucial to understand the function of this pathway in the intestine to avoid the intestinal toxicity that can result from systemic disruption of this pathway.
Intestinal stem cells sustain intestinal tissue, including growth and repair, and provide a potential cellular source for cancers. This project aims to elucidate the role of the Notch signaling pathway in regulating the intestinal stem cell to better understand normal intestinal function in mouse and human as well as the mechanism of intestinal toxicity associated with therapies that target the Notch pathway to treat human disease.
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