Cis elements of the villin gene control expression in restricted domains of the vertical (crypt) and horizontal (duodenum, cecum) axes of the intestine.
Villin, an actin bundling protein found in the apical brush border of absorptive tissues, is one of the first structural genes to be transcriptionally activated in the embryonic intestinal endoderm. In the adult, villin is broadly expressed in every cell of the intestinal epithelium on both the vertical axis (crypt to villus tip) and the horizontal axis (duodenum through colon) of the intestine. Here, we document that a 12.4-kilobase region of the mouse villin gene drives high level expression of two different reporter genes (LacZ and Cre recombinase) within the entire intestinal epithelium of transgenic mice. Deletion of a portion of this transgene results in reduction of beta-galactosidase activity in restricted domains of the small intestine (duodenum) and large intestine (cecum). In addition, expression is reduced in the crypt compartment throughout the intestine. Thus, the global expression pattern of villin in the intestine is apparently the consequence of an amalgam of distinct and individual domain-specific control processes. That is, expression of villin in the duodenum and cecum requires different regulatory sequences than the rest of the intestine, and the expression of villin in crypts is regulated by different circuitry than expression of villin on villus tips.