Activated macrophages are an adaptive element of the colonic epithelial progenitor niche necessary for regenerative responses to injury

Sarah L. Pull, Jason M. Doherty, Jason C. Mills, Jeffrey I. Gordon, Thaddeus Stappenbeck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

423 Scopus citations


We have identified cellular and molecular features of the stem cell niche required for marked amplification of mouse colonic epithelial progenitors (ColEPs) that occurs in response to wounding of the epithelium with dextran sodium sulfate. This regenerative response in areas adjacent to breaches in the epithelial barrier depends on the gut microbiota because ColEP proliferation is markedly diminished in germ-free animals. Analysis of conventionally raised C57BL/6 (B6) knockout mice lacking the Toll-like receptor signal transduction pathway component Myd88 and wild-type animals transplanted with Myd88 -/- bone marrow, revealed that Myd88-mediated signaling through mesenchymal cells is also required for the ColEP response. Studies of B6 Csf1op/op (lacking macrophages) mice, Rag1-/- mice, and wild-type mice treated with neutrophil-specific Gr1 mAbs, disclosed that macrophages but not lymphocytes or neutrophils are necessary. GeneChip analysis of laser-capture-microdissected mesenchymal cells coupled with immunohistochemical and electron microscopic studies showed that, during the regenerative response, macrophages in the pericryptal stem cell niche express genes associated with their activation and extend processes to directly contact ColEPs near the crypt base. GeneChip analysis also identified a number of potential molecular mediators of regeneration expressed in the pericryptal progenitor niche, including secreted factors that stimulate epithelial proliferation and proteins involved in extracellular matrix and basement membrane function, stability, and growth factor binding. Together, these studies indicate that the colonic epithelial progenitor niche is a dynamic structure in which macrophages function as mobile "cellular transceivers" that coordinate inputs from luminal microbes and injured epithelium and transmit regenerative signals to neighboring ColEPs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-104
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 4 2005


  • Epithelial-mesenchymal cross-talk
  • Laser capture microdissection
  • Macrophage activation
  • Stem cell
  • Stem cell niche

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