The primary function of the small intestine (SI) is to absorb nutrients to maintain whole-body energy homeostasis. Enterocytes are the major epithelial cell type facilitating nutrient sensing and uptake. However, the molecular regulators governing enterocytes have remained undefined. Here, we identify c-Maf as an enterocyte-specific transcription factor within the SI epithelium. c-Maf expression was determined by opposing Noggin/BMP signals and overlapped with the zonated enrichment of nutrient transporters in the mid-villus region. Functionally, enterocytes required c-Maf to appropriately differentiate along the villus axis. Specifically, gene programs controlling carbohydrate and protein absorption were c-Maf–dependent. Consequently, epithelial cell–specific c-Maf deletion resulted in impaired enterocyte maturation and nutrient uptake, including defects in the adaptation to different nutrient availability. Concomitantly, intraepithelial lymphocytes were less abundant, while commensal epithelial cell–attaching SFB overgrew in a c-Maf–deficient environment, highlighting the close interdependence between the intestinal epithelium, immune system, and microbiota. Collectively, our data identified c-Maf as a key regulator of SI enterocyte differentiation and function, essential for nutrient, immune, and microbial homeostasis.

This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 4.0 International license, as described at
You do not currently have access to this content.