The stomach corpus epithelium is organized into anatomical units that consist of glands and pits. Mechanisms that control the cellular organization of corpus glands and enable their recovery upon injury are not well understood. R-spondin 3 (RSPO3) is a WNT-signaling enhancer that regulates stem cell behavior in different organs. Here, we investigated the function of RSPO3 in the corpus during homeostasis, upon chief and/or parietal cell loss, and during chronic Helicobacter pylori infection. Using organoid culture and conditional mouse models, we demonstrate that RSPO3 is a critical driver of secretory cell differentiation in the corpus gland toward parietal and chief cells, while its absence promoted pit cell differentiation. Acute loss of chief and parietal cells induced by high dose tamoxifen — or merely the depletion of LGR5+ chief cells — caused an upregulation of RSPO3 expression, which was required for the initiation of a coordinated regenerative response via the activation of yes-associated protein (YAP) signaling. This response enabled a rapid recovery of the injured secretory gland cells. However, in the context of chronic H. pylori infection, the R-spondin–driven regeneration was maintained long term, promoting severe glandular hyperproliferation and the development of premalignant metaplasia.
Anne-Sophie Fischer, Stefanie Müllerke, Alexander Arnold, Julian Heuberger, Hilmar Berger, Manqiang Lin, Hans-Joachim Mollenkopf, Jonas Wizenty, David Horst, Frank Tacke, Michael Sigal