A cDNA encoding rat intestinal trefoil factor (rITF) was prepared by reverse transcription and PCR amplification. The sequence obtained was well conserved with that of other trefoil peptides. An antisense riboprobe produced from the clone was used to localize the sites of ITF expression in the rat gastrointestinal tract using hybridization in situ. We found rITF mRNA in goblet cells in the small intestine and colon; a gradient of signal strength greatest near the crypt base was sometimes present. We found no evidence for rITF expression in Brunner's glands, the pancreas, or most regions of the gastric mucosa. Surprisingly, strong signals for rITF mRNA were detected in a region of stomach at the junction of the squamous fore-stomach with the glandular gastric mucosa. This region, which may correspond to the cardiac region, formed part of a larger area of cells staining positive for acid mucins. We hypothesize that concerted expression occurs of particular trefoil peptides with specific mucins, and that this organization reflects a functional relationship between mucins and trefoil peptides.

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