M cells are located in the follicle-associated epithelium (FAE) that covers Peyer's patches (PPs) and are responsible for the uptake of intestinal antigens. The differentiation of M cells is initiated by receptor activator of NF-κB. However, the intracellular pathways involved in M cell differentiation are still elusive. In this study, we demonstrate that the NF-κB pathway activated by RANK is essential for M cell differentiation using in vitro organoid culture. Overexpression of NF-κB transcription factors enhances the expression of M cell-associated molecules but is not sufficient to complete M cell differentiation. Furthermore, we evaluated the requirement for tumor necrosis factor receptor-associated factor 6 (TRAF6). Conditional deletion of TRAF6 in the intestinal epithelium causes a complete loss of M cells in PPs, resulting in impaired antigen uptake into PPs. In addition, the expression of FAE-associated genes is almost silenced in TRAF6-deficient mice. This study thus demonstrates the crucial role of TRAF6-mediated NF-κB signaling in the development of M cells and FAE.
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