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Keywords:

  • stem cells;
  • small intestine;
  • clonogenic cells;
  • Musashi-1;
  • stem cell marker

Abstract There are few reliable markers for adult stem cells and none for those of the intestinal epithelium. Previously, indirect experimental approaches have predicted stem cell position and numbers. The Musashi-1 (Msi-1) gene encodes an RNA binding protein associated with asymmetric divisions in neural progenitor cells. Two-day-old, adult, and 4.5 h, 1-, 2-, 4- and 12-day post-irradiation samples of BDF1 mouse small intestine, together with some samples of mouse colon were stained with a rat monoclonal antibody to Musashi-1 (14 H-1). Min ( + / − ) mice with small intestinal adenomas of varying sizes were also analysed. Samples of human small and large bowel were also studied but the antibody staining was weak. Musashi-1 expression was observed using immunohistochemistry in neonatal, adult, and regenerating crypts with a staining pattern consistent with the predicted number and distribution of early lineage cells including the functional stem cells in these situations. Early dysplastic crypts and adenomas were also strongly Musashi-1 positive. In situ hybridization studies showed similar expression patterns for the Musashi mRNA and real-time quantitative RT-PCR showed dramatically more Msi-1 mRNA expression in Min tumours compared with adjacent normal tissue. These observations suggest that Musashi-1 is a marker of stem and early lineage progenitor cells in murine intestinal tissue.