BACKGROUND & AIMS - Interstitial cells of Cajal (ICC) control intestinal smooth muscle contraction to regulate gut motility. ICC within the plane of the myenteric plexus (ICC-MY) arise from KIT-positive progenitor cells during mouse embryogenesis. However, little is known about the ontogeny of ICC associated with the deep muscular plexus (ICC-DMP) in the small intestine and ICC associated with the submucosal plexus (ICC-SMP) in the colon. Leucine-rich repeats and immunoglobulin-like domains protein 1 (LRIG1) marks intestinal epithelial stem cells, but the role of LRIG1 in nonepithelial intestinal cells has not been identified. We sought to determine the ontogeny of ICC-DMP and ICC-SMP, and whether LRIG1 has a role in their development.
METHODS - Lrig1-null mice (homozygous Lrig1-CreERT2) and wild-type mice were analyzed by immunofluorescence and transit assays. Transit was evaluated by passage of orally administered rhodamine B-conjugated dextran. Lrig1-CreERT2 mice or mice with CreERT2 under control of an inducible smooth muscle promoter (Myh11-CreERT2) were crossed with Rosa26-LSL-YFP mice for lineage tracing analysis.
RESULTS - In immunofluorescence assays, ICC-DMP and ICC-SMP were found to express LRIG1. Based on lineage tracing, ICC-DMP and ICC-SMP each arose from LRIG1-positive smooth muscle progenitors. In Lrig1-null mice, there was loss of staining for KIT in DMP and SMP regions, as well as for 2 additional ICC markers (anoctamin-1 and neurokinin 1 receptor). Lrig1-null mice had significant delays in small intestinal transit compared with control mice.
CONCLUSIONS - LRIG1 regulates the postnatal development of ICC-DMP and ICC-SMP from smooth muscle progenitors in mice. Slowed small intestinal transit observed in Lrig1-null mice may be due, at least in part, to loss of the ICC-DMP population.
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