Retinoic Acid and Lymphotoxin Signaling Promote Differentiation of Human Intestinal M Cells

Siyuan Ding, Yanhua Song, Kevin F. Brulois, Junliang Pan, Julia Y. Co, Lili Ren, Ningguo Feng, Linda L. Yasukawa, Liliana Sánchez-Tacuba, Jonathan E. Wosen, Elizabeth D. Mellins, Denise M. Monack, Manuel R. Amieva, Calvin J. Kuo, Eugene C. Butcher, Harry B. Greenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Intestinal microfold (M) cells are a unique subset of intestinal epithelial cells in the Peyer's patches that regulate mucosal immunity, serving as portals for sampling and uptake of luminal antigens. The inability to efficiently develop human M cells in cell culture has impeded studies of the intestinal immune system. We aimed to identify signaling pathways required for differentiation of human M cells and establish a robust culture system using human ileum enteroids. Methods: We analyzed transcriptome data from mouse Peyer's patches to identify cell populations in close proximity to M cells. We used the human enteroid system to determine which cytokines were required to induce M-cell differentiation. We performed transcriptome, immunofluorescence, scanning electron microscope, and transcytosis experiments to validate the development of phenotypic and functional human M cells. Results: A combination of retinoic acid and lymphotoxin induced differentiation of glycoprotein 2-positive human M cells, which lack apical microvilli structure. Upregulated expression of innate immune-related genes within M cells correlated with a lack of viral antigens after rotavirus infection. Human M cells, developed in the enteroid system, internalized and transported enteric viruses, such as rotavirus and reovirus, across the intestinal epithelium barrier in the enteroids. Conclusions: We identified signaling pathways required for differentiation of intestinal M cells, and used this information to create a robust culture method to develop human M cells with capacity for internalization and transport of viruses. Studies of this model might increase our understanding of antigen presentation and the systemic entry of enteric pathogens in the human intestine.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)214-226.e1
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2020


  • Intestinal Enteroids
  • Mucosal Immunity
  • Rotavirus


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