Distinct fibroblast subsets regulate lacteal integrity through YAP/TAZ-induced VEGF-C in intestinal villi.
ABSTRACT: Emerging evidence suggests that intestinal stromal cells (IntSCs) play essential roles in maintaining intestinal homeostasis. However, the extent of heterogeneity within the villi stromal compartment and how IntSCs regulate the structure and function of specialized intestinal lymphatic capillary called lacteal remain elusive. Here we show that selective hyperactivation or depletion of YAP/TAZ in PDGFR?+ IntSCs leads to lacteal sprouting or regression with junctional disintegration and impaired dietary fat uptake. Indeed, mechanical or osmotic stress regulates IntSC secretion of VEGF-C mediated by YAP/TAZ. Single-cell RNA sequencing delineated novel subtypes of villi fibroblasts that upregulate Vegfc upon YAP/TAZ activation. These populations of fibroblasts were distributed in proximity to lacteal, suggesting that they constitute a peri-lacteal microenvironment. Our findings demonstrate the heterogeneity of IntSCs and reveal that distinct subsets of villi fibroblasts regulate lacteal integrity through YAP/TAZ-induced VEGF-C secretion, providing new insights into the dynamic regulatory mechanisms behind lymphangiogenesis and lymphatic remodeling.
Project description:Excess dietary lipid uptake causes obesity, a major global health problem. Enterocyte-absorbed lipids are packaged into chylomicrons, which enter the bloodstream through intestinal lymphatic vessels called lacteals. Here, we show that preventing lacteal chylomicron uptake by inducible endothelial genetic deletion of Neuropilin1 (Nrp1) and Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 1 (Vegfr1; also known as Flt1) renders mice resistant to diet-induced obesity. Absence of NRP1 and FLT1 receptors increased VEGF-A bioavailability and signaling through VEGFR2, inducing lacteal junction zippering and chylomicron malabsorption. Restoring permeable lacteal junctions by VEGFR2 and vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin signaling inhibition rescued chylomicron transport in the mutant mice. Zippering of lacteal junctions by disassembly of cytoskeletal VE-cadherin anchors prevented chylomicron uptake in wild-type mice. These data suggest that lacteal junctions may be targets for preventing dietary fat uptake.
Project description:A lacteal is a blunt-ended, long, tube-like lymphatic vessel located in the center of each intestinal villus that provides a unique route for drainage of absorbed lipids from the small intestine. However, key regulators for maintaining lacteal integrity are poorly understood. Here, we explore whether and how the gut microbiota regulates lacteal integrity. Germ depletion by antibiotic treatment triggers lacteal regression during adulthood and delays lacteal maturation during the postnatal period. In accordance with compromised lipid absorption, the button-like junction between lymphatic endothelial cells, which is ultrastructurally open to permit free entry of dietary lipids into lacteals, is significantly reduced in lacteals of germ-depleted mice. Lacteal defects are also found in germ-free mice, but conventionalization of germ-free mice leads to normalization of lacteals. Mechanistically, VEGF-C secreted from villus macrophages upon MyD88-dependent recognition of microbes and their products is a main factor in lacteal integrity. Collectively, we conclude that the gut microbiota is a crucial regulator for lacteal integrity by endowing its unique microenvironment and regulating villus macrophages in small intestine.
Project description:The small intestine is a dynamic and complex organ that is characterized by constant epithelium turnover and crosstalk among various cell types and the microbiota. Lymphatic capillaries of the small intestine, called lacteals, play key roles in dietary fat absorption and the gut immune response; however, little is known about the molecular regulation of lacteal function. Here, we performed a high-resolution analysis of the small intestinal stroma and determined that lacteals reside in a permanent regenerative, proliferative state that is distinct from embryonic lymphangiogenesis or quiescent lymphatic vessels observed in other tissues. We further demonstrated that this continuous regeneration process is mediated by Notch signaling and that the expression of the Notch ligand delta-like 4 (DLL4) in lacteals requires activation of VEGFR3 and VEGFR2. Moreover, genetic inactivation of Dll4 in lymphatic endothelial cells led to lacteal regression and impaired dietary fat uptake. We propose that such a slow lymphatic regeneration mode is necessary to match a unique need of intestinal lymphatic vessels for both continuous maintenance, due to the constant exposure to dietary fat and mechanical strain, and efficient uptake of fat and immune cells. Our work reveals how lymphatic vessel responses are shaped by tissue specialization and uncover a role for continuous DLL4 signaling in the function of adult lymphatic vasculature.
Project description:Lymphatic vasculature is an integral part of digestive, immune and circulatory systems. The homeobox transcription factor PROX1 is necessary for the development of lymphatic vessels, lymphatic valves (LVs) and lymphovenous valves (LVVs). We and others previously reported a feedback loop between PROX1 and vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) signaling. PROX1 promotes the expression of the VEGF-C receptor VEGFR3 in lymphatic endothelial cells (LECs). In turn, VEGF-C signaling maintains PROX1 expression in LECs. However, the mechanisms of PROX1/VEGF-C feedback loop remain poorly understood. Whether VEGF-C signaling is necessary for LV and LVV development is also unknown. Here, we report for the first time that VEGF-C signaling is necessary for valve morphogenesis. We have also discovered that the transcriptional co-activators YAP and TAZ are required to maintain PROX1 expression in LVs and LVVs in response to VEGF-C signaling. Deletion of <i>Yap</i> and <i>Taz</i> in the lymphatic vasculature of mouse embryos did not affect the formation of LVs or LVVs, but resulted in the degeneration of these structures. Our results have identified VEGF-C, YAP and TAZ as a crucial molecular pathway in valve development.
Project description:Lacteals are lymphatic vessels located at the center of each intestinal villus and provide essential transport routes for lipids and other lipophilic molecules. However, it is unclear how absorbed molecules are transported through the lacteal. Here, we used reporter mice that express GFP under the control of the lymphatic-specific promoter Prox1 and a custom-built confocal microscope and performed intravital real-time visualization of the absorption and transport dynamics of fluorescence-tagged fatty acids (FAs) and various exogenous molecules in the intestinal villi in vivo. These analyses clearly revealed transepithelial absorption of these molecules via enterocytes, diffusive distribution over the lamina propria, and subsequent transport through lacteals. Moreover, we observed active contraction of lacteals, which seemed to be directly involved in dietary lipid drainage. Our analysis revealed that the smooth muscles that surround each lacteal are responsible for contractile dynamics and that lacteal contraction is ultimately controlled by the autonomic nervous system. These results indicate that the lacteal is a unique organ-specific lymphatic system and does not merely serve as a passive conduit but as an active pump that transports lipids. Collectively, using this efficient imaging method, we uncovered drainage of absorbed molecules in small intestinal villus lacteals and the involvement of lacteal contractibility.
Project description:Vascular endothelial growth factor C (VEGF-C) binding to its tyrosine kinase receptor VEGFR-3 drives lymphatic vessel growth during development and in pathological processes. Although the VEGF-C/VEGFR-3 pathway provides a target for treatment of cancer and lymphedema, the physiological functions of VEGF-C in adult vasculature are unknown. We show here that VEGF-C is necessary for perinatal lymphangiogenesis, but required for adult lymphatic vessel maintenance only in the intestine. Following Vegfc gene deletion in adult mice, the intestinal lymphatic vessels, including the lacteal vessels, underwent gradual atrophy, which was aggravated when also Vegfd was deleted. VEGF-C was expressed by a subset of smooth muscle cells adjacent to the lacteals in the villus and in the intestinal wall. The Vegfc-deleted mice showed defective lipid absorption and increased fecal excretion of dietary cholesterol and fatty acids. When fed a high-fat diet, the Vegfc-deficient mice were resistant to obesity and had improved glucose metabolism. Our findings indicate that the lymphangiogenic growth factors provide trophic and dynamic regulation of the intestinal lymphatic vasculature, which could be especially important in the dietary regulation of adiposity and cholesterol metabolism.
Project description:Aggressive behaviours of solid tumours are highly influenced by the tumour microenvironment. Multiple signalling pathways can affect the normal function of stromal fibroblasts in tumours, but how these events are coordinated to generate tumour-promoting cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) is not well understood. Here we show that stromal expression of Dickkopf-3 (DKK3) is associated with aggressive breast, colorectal and ovarian cancers. We demonstrate that DKK3 is a HSF1 effector that modulates the pro-tumorigenic behaviour of CAFs in vitro and in vivo. DKK3 orchestrates a concomitant activation of ?-catenin and YAP/TAZ. Whereas ?-catenin is dispensable for CAF-mediated ECM remodelling, cancer cell growth and invasion, DKK3-driven YAP/TAZ activation is required to induce tumour-promoting phenotypes. Mechanistically, DKK3 in CAFs acts via canonical Wnt signalling by interfering with the negative regulator Kremen and increasing cell-surface levels of LRP6. This work reveals an unpredicted link between HSF1, Wnt signalling and YAP/TAZ relevant for the generation of tumour-promoting CAFs.
Project description:Lymphatic vascular development involves specification of lymphatic endothelial progenitors that subsequently undergo sprouting, proliferation and tissue growth to form a complex second vasculature. The Hippo pathway and effectors Yap and Taz control organ growth and regulate morphogenesis and cellular proliferation. Yap and Taz control angiogenesis but a role in lymphangiogenesis remains to be fully elucidated. Here we show that YAP displays dynamic changes in lymphatic progenitors and Yap1 is essential for lymphatic vascular development in zebrafish. Maternal and Zygotic (MZ) yap1 mutants show normal specification of lymphatic progenitors, abnormal cellular sprouting and reduced numbers of lymphatic progenitors emerging from the cardinal vein during lymphangiogenesis. Furthermore, Yap1 is indispensable for Vegfc-induced proliferation in a transgenic model of Vegfc overexpression. Paracrine Vegfc-signalling ultimately increases nuclear YAP in lymphatic progenitors to control lymphatic development. We thus identify a role for Yap in lymphangiogenesis, acting downstream of Vegfc to promote expansion of this vascular lineage.
Project description:Transcription factors YAP and TAZ function as the primary mediators of the Hippo pathway. Yet, crosstalk of YAP and TAZ with other signaling pathways remains relatively unexplored. We have explored the impact of YAP and TAZ levels on the TGF-?/Smad signaling pathway in human skin dermal fibroblasts.YAP and TAZ levels in dermal fibroblasts were reduced in dermal fibroblasts by siRNA-mediated knockdown. The effects of YAP and TAZ reduction on TGF-?/Smad signaling were examined by quantitative real-time PCR, Western analysis, and immunostaining. Luciferase reporter assays and electrophoretic mobility shift assays were conducted to investigate the transcription factor DNA-binding and transcriptional activities.Knockdown of both YAP and TAZ (YAP/TAZ), but not either separately, impaired TGF-?1-induced Smad3 phosphorylation and Smad3 transcriptional activity, thereby inhibiting the expression of TGF-? target genes. This reduction by reduced levels of YAP/TAZ results from induction of inhibitory Smad7, which inhibits Smad3 phosphorylation and activity by TGF-?1. Conversely, prevention of Smad7 induction restores Smad3 phosphorylation and Smad3 transcriptional activity in fibroblasts that have reduced YAP/TAZ. In agreement with these findings, inhibition of YAP/TAZ transcriptional activity, similar to the reduction of YAP/TAZ levels, also significantly induced Smad7 and impaired TGF-?/Smad signaling. Further investigations revealed that reduced levels of YAP/TAZ led to induction of activator protein-1 (AP-1) activity, Activated AP-1 bound to DNA sequences in the Smad7 gene promoter, and deletion of these AP-1 binding sequences substantially reduced Smad7 promoter reporter activity.YAP/TAZ functions in concert with transcription factor AP-1 and Smad7 to regulate TGF-? signaling, in human dermal fibroblasts. Reduction of YAP/TAZ levels leads to activation of AP-1 activity, which induces Smad7. Smad7 suppresses the TGF-? pathway.
Project description:In damaged kidneys, increased extracellular matrix (ECM) and tissue stiffness stimulate kidney fibrosis through incompletely characterized molecular mechanisms. The transcriptional coactivators yes-associated protein (Yap) and transcriptional coactivator with PDZ-binding motif (Taz) function as mechanosensors in cancer cells and have been implicated in the regulation of myofibroblasts in the kidney. We hypothesized that the development of kidney fibrosis depends on Yap-induced activation and proliferation of kidney fibroblasts. In mice, Yap expression increased in renal fibroblasts after unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO), in association with worsening of interstitial fibrosis. In cultured fibroblasts, inhibition of Yap/Taz signaling blocked TGF-?1-induced fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transformation and ECM production, whereas constitutive activation of Yap promoted fibroblast transformation and ECM production even in the absence of TGF-?1. Moreover, in the absence of TGF-?1, fibroblasts seeded on a stiffened ECM transformed into myofibroblasts in a process dependent on the activation of Yap. In mice with UUO, the Yap inhibitor verteporfin reduced interstitial fibrosis. Furthermore, Gli1+ cell-specific knockout of Yap/Taz in mice suppressed UUO-induced ECM deposition, myofibroblast accumulation, and interstitial fibrosis. In a UUO-release model, induction of Gli1+ cell-specific Yap/Taz knockout partially reversed the development of interstitial fibrosis. Thus, in the kidney, Yap is a tissue mechanosensor that can be activated by ECM and transforms fibroblasts into myofibroblasts; the interaction of Yap/Taz and ECM forms a feed-forward loop resulting in kidney fibrosis. Identifying mechanisms that interrupt this profibrotic cycle could lead to the development of anti-fibrosis therapy.