Pax6 is required for differentiation of glucagon-producing α-cells in mouse pancreas

Abstract

The functional unit of the endocrine pancreas is the islet of Langerhans. Islets are nested within the exocrine tissue of the pancreas and are composed of α-, β-, δ- and γ-cells1. β-Cells produce insulin and form the core of the islet, whereas α-, δ- and γ-cells are arranged at the periphery of the islet and secrete glucagon, somatostatin and a pancreatic polypeptide, respectively. Little is known about the molecular and genetic factors regulating the lineage of the different endocrine cells. Pancreas development is known to be abolished in Pdx1-mutant mice2 and Pax4 mutants lack insulin-producing (β-cells3. Here we show that the paired-box gene Pax6 is expressed during the early stages of pancreatic development and in mature endocrine cells. The pancreas of Pax6 homozygous mutant mice lack glucagon-producing cells, suggesting that Pax6 is essential for the differentiation of α-cells. As mice lacking Pax4 and Pax6 fail to develop any mature endocrine cells, we conclude that both Pax genes are required for endocrine fate in the pancreas.

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St-Onge, L., Sosa-Pineda, B., Chowdhury, K. et al. Pax6 is required for differentiation of glucagon-producing α-cells in mouse pancreas. Nature 387, 406–409 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1038/387406a0

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