Intestinal microfold cells (M cells) are an enigmatic lineage of intestinal epithelial cells that initiate mucosal immune responses through the uptake and transcytosis of luminal antigens. The mechanisms of M-cell differentiation are poorly understood, as the rarity of these cells has hampered analysis. Exogenous administration of the cytokine RANKL can synchronously activate M-cell differentiation in mice. Here we show the Ets transcription factor Spi-B was induced early during M-cell differentiation. Absence of Spi-B silenced the expression of various M-cell markers and prevented the differentiation of M cells in mice. The activation of T cells via an oral route was substantially impaired in the intestine of Spi-B-deficient (Spib -/-) mice. Our study demonstrates that commitment to the intestinal M-cell lineage requires Spi-B as a candidate master regulator.
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