Identification of cells expressingOLFM4andLGR5mRNA by in situ hybridization in the yolk sac and small intestine of embryonic and early post-hatch chicks

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The chicken yolk sac (YS) and small intestine are essential for nutrient absorption during the pre-hatch and post-hatch periods, respectively. Absorptive enterocytes and secretory cells line the intestinal villi and originate from stem cells located in the intestinal crypts. Similarly, in the YS, there are absorptive and secretory cells that presumably originate from a stem cell population. Leucine-rich repeat containing G protein-coupled receptor 5 (Lgr5) and olfactomedin 4 (Olfm4) are 2 widely used markers for intestinal stem cells. The objective of this study was to map the distribution of putative stem cells expressing LGR5 and OLFM4 mRNA in the chicken small intestine from the late embryonic period to early post hatch and the YS during embryogenesis. At embryonic d 11, 13, 15, 17, and 19, the YS was collected (n = 3), and small intestine was collected at embryonic d 19, d of hatch (doh), and d 1, 4, and 7 post hatch (n = 3). Cells expressing OLFM4 and LGR5 mRNA were identified by in situ hybridization. In the YS, cells expressing only LGR5 and not OLFM4 mRNA were localized to the vascular endothelial cells lining the blood vessels. In the small intestine, cells in the intestinal crypt expressed both LGR5 and OLFM4 mRNA. Staining for OLFM4 mRNA was more intense than LGR5 mRNA, demonstrating that Olfm4 is a more robust marker for stem cells than Lgr5. At embryonic d 19 and doh, cells staining for OLFM4 mRNA were already present in the rudimentary crypts, with the greatest staining in the duodenal crypts. The intensity of OLFM4 mRNA staining increased from doh to d 7 post hatch. Dual label staining at doh for the peptide transporter PepT1 and Olfm4 revealed a population of cells above the crypts that did not express Olfm4 or PepT1 mRNA. These cells are likely progenitor transit amplifying cells. Thus, avians and mammals share similarity in the ontogeny of stem cells in the intestinal crypts.

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