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Gastroenterology (New York, N.Y. 1943)
<h4>Background & aims</h4>The homeostasis of the gastrointestinal epithelium relies on cell regeneration and differentiation into distinct lineages organized inside glands and crypts. Regeneration depends on Wnt/β-catenin pathway activation, but to understand homeostasis and its dysregulation in disease, we need to identify the signaling microenvironment governing cell differentiation. By using gastric glands as a model, we have identified the signals inducing differentiation of surface mucus-, zymogen-, and gastric acid-producing cells.<h4>Methods</h4>We generated mucosoid cultures from the human stomach and exposed them to different growth factors to obtain cells with features of differentiated foveolar, chief, and parietal cells. We localized the source of the growth factors in the tissue of origin.<h4>Results</h4>We show that epidermal growth factor is the major fate determinant distinguishing the surface and inner part of human gastric glands. In combination with bone morphogenetic factor/Noggin signals, epidermal growth factor controls the differentiation of foveolar cells vs parietal or chief cells. We also show that epidermal growth factor is likely to underlie alteration of the gastric mucosa in the precancerous condition atrophic gastritis.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Use of our recently established mucosoid cultures in combination with analysis of the tissue of origin provided a robust strategy to understand differentiation and patterning of human tissue and allowed us to draw a new, detailed map of the signaling microenvironment in the human gastric glands.