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Hum Mol Genet. 2003 Dec 15;12(24):3307-14. Epub 2003 Oct 21.

Hnf6 and Tcf2 (MODY5) are linked in a gene network operating in a precursor cell domain of the embryonic pancreas.

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  • 1Endocrinology, Hospital Clínic, Institut d'Investigacions Biomèdiques August Pi i Sunyer, Barcelona, Spain.


During pancreatic organogenesis endocrine cells arise from non self-renewing progenitors that express Ngn3. The precursors that give rise to Ngn3+ cells are presumably located within duct-like structures. However, the nature of such precursors is poorly understood. We show that, at E13-E18, the embryonic stage during which the major burst of beta-cell neogenesis takes place, pancreatic duct cells express Hnf1beta, the product of the maturity-onset diabetes of the young type 5 (MODY5) gene. Ngn3+ cells at this stage invariably cluster with mitotically competent Hnf1beta+ cells, and are often intercalated with these cells in the epithelium that lines the lumen of primitive ducts. We present several observations that collectively indicate that Hnf1beta+ cells are the immediate precursors of Ngn3+ cells. We furthermore show that Hnf1beta expression is markedly reduced in early pancreatic epithelial cells of Hnf6-deficient mice, in which formation of Ngn3+ cells is defective. These findings define a precursor cellular stage of the embryonic pancreas and place Hnf1beta in a genetic hierarchy that regulates the generation of pancreatic endocrine cells.

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