A role for CdxA in gut closure and intestinal epithelia differentiation

Ayala Frumkin, Graciela Pillemer, Rebecca Haffner, Nora Tarcic, Yosef Gruenbaum, Abraham Fainsod*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

47 Scopus citations


CdxA is a homeobox gene of the caudal type that was previously shown to be expressed in the endoderm-derived gut epithelium during early embryogenesis. Expression of the CDXA protein was studied during intestine morphogenesis from stage 11 (13 somites) to adulthood in the chicken. The CDXA protein can be detected during all stages of gut closure, from stage 11 to 5 days of incubation, and is mainly localized to the intestinal portals, the region where the splanchnopleure is undergoing closure. In this region, which represents the transition between the open and closed gut, the CDXA protein is restricted to the endoderm-derived epithelium. At about day 5 of incubation, the process of formation of the previllous ridges begins, which marks the beginning of the morphogenesis of the villi. From this stage to day 11 expression of CDXA is localized to the epithelial lining of the intestine. In parallel, a gradual increase in CDXA protein expression begins in the mesenchyme that is close in proximity to the CDXA-positive endoderm. Maximal CDXA levels in the mesenchyme are observed at day 9 of incubation. During days 10 and 11 CDXA levels in the mesenchyme remain constant, and by day 12 CDXA becomes undetectable in these cells and the epithelium again becomes the main site of expression. From day 12 of incubation until adulthood the CDXA protein is present in the intestinal epithelium. Until day 18 of incubation expression can be detected along the whole length of the villus with a stronger signal at the tip. With hatching the distribution along the villi changes so that the main site of CDXA protein expression is at the base of the villi and in the crypts. The transient expression of CDXA in the mesenchyme between days 5 and 11 may be related to the interactions taking place between the mesenchyme and the epithelium that ultimately result in the axial specification of the alimentary canal and the differentiation of its various epithelia. The main CDXA spatial distribution during morphogenesis suggests a tight linkage to the formation and differentiation of the intestinal epithelium itself. CDXA appears to play a role in the morphogenetic events leading to closure of the alimentary canal. During previllous ridge formation the CDXA protein is transiently expressed in the mesenchymal cells thought to provide instructive interactions for the regionalization and differentiation of the gut epithelium. Finally, CDXA is expressed, from hatching until adulthood, in the crypts and the base of the villi, in cells on their way to differentiate and replace those aged by digestive activity.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)253-263
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Embryology and Experimental Morphology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1994


  • Caudal genes
  • Chicken embryos
  • Endoderm
  • Gut development
  • Homeobox


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