Expression of SPARC/osteonectin/BM4O in the human gut: predominance in the stroma of the remodeling distal intestine

Author(s): Lussier C, Sodek J, Beaulieu JF


SPARC is a glycoprotein of the extracellular matrix that exhibits a number of biological functions such as disruption of cell adhesion and modulation of matrix metalloprotease expression. These properties, in concert with the expression of the molecule during development, repair, and neoplastic progression, suggest that SPARC has an important role in remodeling in a variety of tissues. However, the role of SPARC in the intestine is unclear since the development expression and tissular origin of SPARC in this organ appears to be species-dependent. As a first step to investigate the function of SPARC in the tissues of the intestine, we have analyzed its expression at the protein and mRNA levels in the human fetal and adult small intestinal and colonic mucosa as well as in intestinal cell models. Our results show that SPARC expression is differentially regulated during development and along the length of the human intestine. In the colon, SPARC was predominantly found at the epithelial-mesenchymal interface at the fetal stage, below detection levels in the normal adult, but re-expressed in the stroma of colonic tumors. In the small intestine, low levels of SPARC expression were observed at an early stage of morphogenesis (between 9 and 11 weeks) but expression was not detected at subsequent developmental stages nor was it induced in the mucosa of Crohn's disease. While SPARC appeared to be produced mainly by mesenchymal and stromal cells in the intact intestine it was not detected in colon cancer cells. Taken together, these results indicate that SPARC is subject to an onco-fetal pattern of expression in the stroma of the colonic mucosa while its expression is much more restricted in the small intestine, suggesting a differential involvement of this molecule in the extracellular matrix remodeling occurring along the length of the developing and diseased human intestinal mucosa.

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