May 9, 2011

“HELLO, my name is…tuft cell.” I’m sure a lot of folks wish that cells wore name tags to help identify them. In a sense, however, cells do wear name tags…we just have to figure out how to read them. A recent paper describes how to identify tuft cells in intestinal tissue, where they come from, and what jobs they perform.

Tuft cells are found in the intestinal epithelium, a tissue that is very dynamic and busy digesting food. Although tuft cells were identified in 1956, their origin, markers, and function remained unclear until recently. A group of researchers were recently able to identify markers that clearly define tuft cells within intestinal tissue. In addition, these biologists found that these cells come from a group of intestinal stem cells and function as secretory cells. In mice, tuft cells appear shortly after birth, as seen in the images above. Prior to birth (top), tuft cells are not found in the intestinal epithelium. However, after birth (middle, bottom), tuft cells can be detected by staining for DCLK1 (red, arrowheads), the tuft cell marker identified in the paper.

ResearchBlogging.orgGerbe, F., van Es, J., Makrini, L., Brulin, B., Mellitzer, G., Robine, S., Romagnolo, B., Shroyer, N., Bourgaux, J., Pignodel, C., Clevers, H., & Jay, P. (2011). Distinct ATOH1 and Neurog3 requirements define tuft cells as a new secretory cell type in the intestinal epithelium originally published in The Journal of Cell Biology, 192 (5), 767-780 DOI: 10.1083/jcb.201010127

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