YAP/TAZ are the major mediators of mammalian Hippo signaling; however, their precise function in the gastrointestinal tract remains poorly understood. Here we dissect the distinct roles of YAP/TAZ in endodermal epithelium and mesenchyme and find that, although dispensable for gastrointestinal epithelial development and homeostasis, YAP/TAZ function as the critical molecular switch to coordinate growth and patterning in gut mesenchyme. Our genetic analyses reveal that Lats1/2 kinases suppress expansion of the primitive mesenchymal progenitors, where YAP activation also prevents induction of the smooth muscle lineage through transcriptional repression of Myocardin. During later development, zone-restricted downregulation of YAP/TAZ provides the positional cue and allows smooth muscle cell differentiation induced by Hedgehog signaling. Taken together, our studies identify the mesenchymal requirement of YAP/TAZ in the gastrointestinal tract and highlight the functional interplays between Hippo and Hedgehog signaling underlying temporal and spatial control of tissue growth and specification in developing gut.
The embryonic mouse lung is a widely used substitute for human lung development. For example, attempts to differentiate human pluripotent stem cells to lung epithelium rely on passing through progenitor states that have only been described in mouse. The tip epithelium of the branching mouse lung is a multipotent progenitor pool that self-renews and produces differentiating descendants. We hypothesized that the human distal tip epithelium is an analogous progenitor population and tested this by examining morphology, gene expression and in vitro self-renewal and differentiation capacity of human tips. These experiments confirm that human and mouse tips are analogous and identify signalling pathways that are sufficient for long-term self-renewal of human tips as differentiation-competent organoids. Moreover, we identify mouse-human differences, including markers that define progenitor states and signalling requirements for long-term self-renewal. Our organoid system provides a genetically-tractable tool that will allow these human-specific features of lung development to be investigated.