RHOA, a founding member of the Rho GTPase family, is critical for actomyosin dynamics, polarity, and morphogenesis in response to developmental cues, mechanical stress, and inflammation. In murine small intestinal epithelium, inducible RHOA deletion causes a loss of epithelial polarity, with disrupted villi and crypt organization. In the intestinal crypts, RHOA deficiency results in reduced cell proliferation, increased apoptosis, and a loss of intestinal stem cells (ISCs) that mimic effects of radiation damage. Mechanistically, RHOA loss reduces YAP signaling of the Hippo pathway and affects YAP effector epiregulin (EREG) expression in the crypts. Expression of an active YAP (S112A) mutant rescues ISC marker expression, ISC regeneration, and ISC-associated Wnt signaling, but not defective epithelial polarity, in RhoA knockout mice, implicating YAP in RHOA-regulated ISC function. EREG treatment or active β-catenin Catnb mutant expression rescues the RhoA KO ISC phenotypes. Thus, RHOA controls YAP-EREG signaling to regulate intestinal homeostasis and ISC regeneration.
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