Smooth muscle-specific MMP17 (MT4-MMP) regulates the intestinal stem cell niche and regeneration after damage

Mara Martín-Alonso*, Sharif Iqbal, Pia M. Vornewald, Håvard T. Lindholm, Mirjam J. Damen, Fernando Martínez, Sigrid Hoel, Alberto Díez-Sánchez, Maarten Altelaar, Pekka Katajisto, Alicia G. Arroyo, Menno J. Oudhoff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Smooth muscle is an essential component of the intestine, both to maintain its structure and produce peristaltic and segmentation movements. However, very little is known about other putative roles that smooth muscle cells may have. Here, we show that smooth muscle cells may be the dominant suppliers of BMP antagonists, which are niche factors essential for intestinal stem cell maintenance. Furthermore, muscle-derived factors render epithelium reparative and fetal-like, which includes heightened YAP activity. Mechanistically, we find that the membrane-bound matrix metalloproteinase MMP17, which is exclusively expressed by smooth muscle cells, is required for intestinal epithelial repair after inflammation- or irradiation-induced injury. Furthermore, we propose that MMP17 affects intestinal epithelial reprogramming after damage indirectly by cleaving diffusible factor(s) such as the matricellular protein PERIOSTIN. Together, we identify an important signaling axis that establishes a role for smooth muscle cells as modulators of intestinal epithelial regeneration and the intestinal stem cell niche.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6741
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Mucosa/metabolism
  • Intestines/cytology
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 17/metabolism
  • Muscle, Smooth/metabolism
  • Regeneration/physiology
  • Signal Transduction/physiology
  • Stem Cell Niche/physiology
  • Stem Cells/metabolism


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