Mesenchymal stem cells induce epithelial proliferation within the inflamed stomach

Jessica M. Donnelly, Amy Engevik, Rui Feng, Chang Xiao, Gregory P. Boivin, Jing Li, Jean Marie Houghton, Yana Zavros

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) sustain cancer cells by creating a microenvironment favorable for tumor growth. In particular, MSCs have been implicated in gastric cancer development. There is extensive evidence suggesting that Hedgehog signaling regulates tumor growth. However, very little is known regarding the precise roles of Hedgehog signaling and MSCs in tumor development within the stomach. The current study tests that hypothesis that Sonic Hedgehog (Shh), secreted from MSCs, provides a proliferative stimulus for the gastric epithelium in the presence of inflammation. Red fluorescent protein-expressing MSCs transformed in vitro (stMSCs) were transduced with lentiviral constructs containing a vector control (stMSCvect) or short hairpin RNA (shRNA) targeting the Shh gene (stMSCShhKO). Gastric submucosal transplantation of wild-type MSCs (wtMSCs), wild-type MSCs overexpressing Shh (wtMSCShh), stMSCvect, or stMSCShhKO cells in C57BL/6 control (BL/6) or gastrin-deficient (GKO) mice was performed and mice analyzed 30 and 60 days posttransplantation. Compared with BL/6 mice transplanted with wtMSCShh and stMSCvect cells, inflamed GKO mice developed aggressive gastric tumors. Tumor development was not observed in mouse stomachs transplanted with wtMSC or stMSCShhKO cells. Compared with stMSCShhKO-transplanted mice, within the inflamed GKO mouse stomach, Shh-expressing stMSCvect- and wtMSCShh-induced proliferation of CD44-positive cells. CD44-positive cells clustered in gland-like structures within the tumor stroma and were positive for Patched (Ptch) expression. We conclude that Shh, secreted from MSCs, provides a proliferative stimulus for the gastric epithelium that is associated with tumor development, a response that is sustained by chronic inflammation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)G1075-G1088
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 15 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • CD44
  • Cancer stem cells
  • Inflammation
  • Sonic Hedgehog

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Physiology (medical)


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