Zebrafish krüppel-like factor 4a represses intestinal cell proliferation and promotes differentiation of intestinal cell lineages

Li, I.C., Chan, C.T., Lu, Y.F., Wu, Y.T., Chen, Y.C., Li, G.B., Lin, C.Y., and Hwang, S.P.
PLoS One   6(6): e20974 (Journal)
Registered Authors
Hwang, Sheng-Ping L.
MeSH Terms
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Bromodeoxyuridine/metabolism
  • Cell Count
  • Cell Differentiation*/genetics
  • Cell Division/genetics
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • Embryo, Nonmammalian/metabolism
  • Enterocytes/cytology
  • Enterocytes/metabolism
  • Enteroendocrine Cells/cytology
  • Enteroendocrine Cells/metabolism
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Glucagon/metabolism
  • Goblet Cells/cytology
  • Goblet Cells/metabolism
  • Histones/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Intestines/cytology*
  • Intestines/metabolism
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors/deficiency
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors/genetics
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors/metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Oligonucleotides, Antisense/genetics
  • Phylogeny
  • Receptors, Notch/metabolism
  • S Phase/genetics
  • Signal Transduction/genetics
  • Symporters/metabolism
  • Synteny/genetics
  • Zebrafish/embryology
  • Zebrafish/genetics
  • Zebrafish/metabolism*
  • Zebrafish Proteins/deficiency
  • Zebrafish Proteins/genetics
  • Zebrafish Proteins/metabolism*
21687630 Full text @ PLoS One


Mouse krüppel-like factor 4 (Klf4) is a zinc finger-containing transcription factor required for terminal differentiation of goblet cells in the colon. However, studies using either Klf4(-/-) mice or mice with conditionally deleted Klf4 in their gastric epithelia showed different results in the role of Klf4 in epithelial cell proliferation. We used zebrafish as a model organism to gain further understanding of the role of Klf4 in the intestinal cell proliferation and differentiation.


We characterized the function of klf4a, a mammalian klf4 homologue by antisense morpholino oligomer knockdown. Zebrafish Klf4a shared high amino acid similarities with human and mouse Klf4. Phylogenetic analysis grouped zebrafish Klf4a together with both human and mouse Klf4 in a branch with high bootstrap value. In zebrafish, we demonstrate that Klf4a represses intestinal cell proliferation based on results of BrdU incorporation, p-Histone 3 immunostaining, and transmission electron microscopy analyses. Decreased PepT1 expression was detected in intestinal bulbs of 80- and 102-hours post fertilization (hpf) klf4a morphants. Significant reduction of alcian blue-stained goblet cell number was identified in intestines of 102- and 120-hpf klf4a morphants. Embryos treated with γ-secretase inhibitor showed increased klf4a expression in the intestine, while decreased klf4a expression and reduction in goblet cell number were observed in embryos injected with Notch intracellular domain (NICD) mRNA. We were able to detect recovery of goblet cell number in 102-hpf embryos that had been co-injected with both klf4a and Notch 1a NICD mRNA.


This study provides in vivo evidence showing that zebrafih Klf4a is essential for the repression of intestinal cell proliferation. Zebrafish Klf4a is required for the differentiation of goblet cells and the terminal differentiation of enterocytes. Moreover, the regulation of differentiation of goblet cells in zebrafish intestine by Notch signaling at least partially mediated through Klf4a.

Genes / Markers
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Mutations / Transgenics
Human Disease / Model
Sequence Targeting Reagents
Engineered Foreign Genes