The intestinal epithelium undergoes a marked adaptive response following loss of functional small bowel surface area characterized by increased crypt cell proliferation and increased enterocyte migration from crypt to villus tip, resulting in villus hyperplasia and enhanced nutrient absorption. Hedgehog (Hh) signaling plays a critical role in regulating epithelial-mesenchymal interactions during morphogenesis of the embryonic intestine. Our previous studies showed that blocking Hh signaling in neonatal mice results in increased small intestinal epithelial crypt cell proliferation and altered enterocyte fat absorption and morphology. Hh family members are also expressed in the adult intestine, but their role in the mature small bowel is unclear. With the use of a model of intestinal adaptation following partial small bowel resection, the role of Hh signaling in the adult gut was examined by determining the effects of blocking Hh signaling on the regenerative response following loss of functional surface area. Hh-inactivating monoclonal antibodies or control antibodies were administered to mice that sustained a 50% intestinal resection. mRNA analyses of the preoperative ileum by quantitative real-time PCR revealed that Indian hedgehog was the most abundant Hh family member. The Hh receptor Patched was more abundant than Patched 2. Analyses of downstream targets of Hh signaling demonstrated that Gli3 was twofold more abundant than Gli1 and Gli2 and that bone morphogenetic protein (BMP)2 was most highly expressed compared with BMP1, -4, and -7. Following intestinal resection, the expression of Hh, Patched, Gli, and most BMP genes was markedly downregulated in the remnant ileum, and, in anti-Hh antibody-treated mice, expression of Patched 2 and Gli 1 was further suppressed. In Hh antibody-treated mice following resection, the enterocyte migration rate from crypt to villus tip was increased, and by 2 wk postoperation, apoptosis was increased in the adaptive gut. However, crypt cell proliferation, villus height, and crypt depth were not augmented. These data indicate that Hh signaling plays a role in adult gut epithelial homeostasis by regulating epithelial cell migration from crypt to villus tip and by enhancing apoptosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)G1280-G1288
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2006


  • Bone morphogenetic proteins
  • Intestinal adaptation
  • Patched


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