肠腺(肠隐窝)受到深入研究，部分原因是最近发现了截然不同的干细胞类群和标记物。Ramesh Shivdasani及同事对小鼠小肠肠腺中侧向抑制(lateral inhibition)和线性弹性的机制进行了活体研究。他们发现，肠腺细胞维持一个容许性的染色质状态——在该状态下一个转录因子来决定形成哪个细胞系，这一点是侧向抑制的基础。
Cells differentiate when transcription factors bind accessible cis-regulatory elements to establish specific gene expression programs. In differentiating embryonic stem cells, chromatin at lineage-restricted genes becomes sequentially accessible, probably by means of ‘pioneer’ transcription factor activity, but tissues may use other strategies in vivo. Lateral inhibition is a pervasive process in which one cell forces a different identity on its neighbours, and it is unclear how chromatin in equipotent progenitors undergoing lateral inhibition quickly enables distinct, transiently reversible cell fates. Here we report the chromatin and transcriptional underpinnings of differentiation in mouse small intestine crypts, where notch signalling mediates lateral inhibition to assign progenitor cells into absorptive or secretory lineages. Transcript profiles in isolated LGR5+ intestinal stem cells10 and secretory and absorptive progenitors indicated that each cell population was distinct and the progenitors specified. Nevertheless, secretory and absorptive progenitors showed comparable levels of H3K4me2 and H3K27ac histone marks and DNase I hypersensitivity—signifying accessible, permissive chromatin—at most of the same cis-elements. Enhancers acting uniquely in progenitors were well demarcated in LGR5+ intestinal stem cells, revealing early priming of chromatin for divergent transcriptional programs, and retained active marks well after lineages were specified. On this chromatin background, ATOH1, a secretory-specific transcription factor, controls lateral inhibition through delta-like notch ligand genes and also drives the expression of numerous secretory lineage genes. Depletion of ATOH1 from specified secretory cells converted them into functional enterocytes, indicating prolonged responsiveness of marked enhancers to the presence or absence of a key transcription factor. Thus, lateral inhibition and intestinal crypt lineage plasticity involve interaction of a lineage-restricted transcription factor with broadly permissive chromatin established in multipotent stem cells.