c-Myc is required for the formation of intestinal crypts but dispensable for homeostasis of the adult intestinal epithelium
In self-renewing tissues such as the skin epidermis and the bone marrow, Myc proteins control differentiation of stem cells and proliferation of progenitor cell types. In the epithelium of the small intestine, we show that c-Myc and N-Myc are expressed in a differential manner. Whereas c-Myc is expressed in the proliferating transient-amplifying compartment of the crypts, N-Myc is restricted to the differentiated villus epithelium and a single cell located near the crypt base. c-Myc has been implicated as a critical target of the canonical Wnt pathway, which is essential for formation and maintenance of the intestinal mucosa. To genetically assess the role of c-Myc during development and homeostasis of the mammalian intestine we induced deletion of the c-myc(flox) allele in the villi and intestinal stem cell-bearing crypts of juvenile and adult mice, via tamoxifen-induced activation of the CreER(T2) recombinase, driven by the villin promoter. Absence of c-Myc activity in the juvenile mucosa at the onset of crypt morphogenesis leads to a failure to form normal numbers of crypts in the small intestine. However, all mice recover from this insult to form and maintain a normal epithelium in the absence of c-Myc activity and without apparent compensation by N-Myc or L-Myc. This study provides genetic and molecular evidence that proliferation and expansion of progenitors necessary to maintain the adult intestinal epithelium can unexpectedly occur in a Myc-independent manner.