Stem cells at the base of the intestinal crypts are in a dynamic equilibrium with their differentiated derivatives. Homeostatic equilibria depend on the presence of negative feedback loops. The role of the Wnt signaling pathway as a driver of epithelial stem cell self renewal and proliferation in the intestine has been relatively well characterized. Much less is known about the negative feedback signals that must exist to control stem cell behavior and the way these may be deregulated in disease. We found that Indian hedgehog is secreted by differentiated intestinal epithelial cells and acts as a negative feedback signal. Hedgehog signaling acts as a break on Wnt signaling in intestinal precursor cells via a secondary signal in the mesenchyme. We will use conditional mutant mice, our large biobank of patient materials and in vitro experiments to further characterize the signals involved in this feedback loop. Our objective is to study the role of this epithelial mesenchymal signaling circuit in the normal intestine and examine the way it is deregulated in intestinal cancer development and inflammation.
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Funding SchemeERC-SG - ERC Starting Grant