YAP1 increases organ size and expands undifferentiated progenitor cells.
The mechanisms that regulate mammalian organ size are poorly understood. It is unclear whether the pathways that control organ size also impinge on stem/progenitor cells. A highly expressed gene in stem cells is YAP1, the ortholog of Drosophila Yorkie, a downstream component of the Hippo pathway. Mutations in components of this pathway produce tissue overgrowth phenotypes in the fly whereas mammalian orthologs, like salvador, merlin, LATS, and YAP1, have been implicated in tumorigenesis. We report here that YAP1 increases organ size and causes aberrant tissue expansion in mice. YAP1 activation reversibly increases liver size more than 4-fold. In the intestine, expression of endogenous YAP1 is restricted to the progenitor/stem cell compartment, and activation of YAP1 expands multipotent undifferentiated progenitor cells, which differentiate upon cessation of YAP1 expression. YAP1 stimulates Notch signaling, and administration of gamma-secretase inhibitors suppressed the intestinal dysplasia caused by YAP1. Human colorectal cancers expressing higher levels of YAP1 share molecular aspects with YAP1-induced dysplastic growth in the mouse. Our data show that the Hippo signaling pathway regulates organ size in mammals and can act on stem cell compartments, indicating a potential link between stem/progenitor cells, organ size, and cancer.