Epithelial organoids derived from intestinal tissue, called enteroids, recapitulate many aspects of the organ in vitro and can be used for biological discovery, personalized medicine, and drug development. Here, we interrogated the cell signaling environment within the developing human intestine to identify niche cues that may be important for epithelial development and homeostasis. We identified an EGF family member, EPIREGULIN (EREG), which is robustly expressed in the developing human crypt. Enteroids generated from the developing human intestine grown in standard culture conditions, which contain EGF, are dominated by stem and progenitor cells and feature little differentiation and no spatial organization. Our results demonstrate that EREG can replace EGF in vitro, and EREG leads to spatially resolved enteroids that feature budded and proliferative crypt domains and a differentiated villus-like central lumen. Multiomic (transcriptome plus epigenome) profiling of native crypts, EGF-grown enteroids, and EREG-grown enteroids showed that EGF enteroids have an altered chromatin landscape that is dependent on EGF concentration, downregulate the master intestinal transcription factor CDX2, and ectopically express stomach genes, a phenomenon that is reversible. This is in contrast to EREG-grown enteroids, which remain intestine like in culture. Thus, EREG creates a homeostatic intestinal niche in vitro, enabling interrogation of stem cell function, cellular differentiation, and disease modeling.
Charlie J. Childs, Emily M. Holloway, Caden W. Sweet, Yu-Hwai Tsai, Angeline Wu, Abigail Vallie, Madeline K. Eiken, Meghan M. Capeling, Rachel K. Zwick, Brisa Palikuqi, Coralie Trentesaux, Joshua H. Wu, Oscar Pellón-Cardenas, Charles J. Zhang, Ian Glass, Claudia Loebel, Qianhui Yu, J. Gray Camp, Jonathan Z. Sexton, Ophir D. Klein, Michael P. Verzi, Jason R. Spence