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Diabetes. 2010 May;59(5):1211-21. doi: 10.2337/db09-0914. Epub 2010 Feb 25.

Hedgehog signaling in pancreas epithelium regulates embryonic organ formation and adult beta-cell function.

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  • 1Diabetes Center, University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA.



Current studies indicate that Hedgehog (Hh) signaling must be excluded during early stages of pancreas formation. However, conflicting evidence suggests that Hh signaling may be active later during pancreas formation and that it is required for insulin production and secretion in cultured beta-cell lines. The objective of this study was to address these discrepancies by assessing the in vivo role of epithelial Hh signaling in the pancreas.


To identify Hh-active cells in the developing and adult pancreas epithelium, we characterized transgenic reporter Patched1-LacZ mice. To determine the requirement for epithelial Hh signaling in the pancreas, we eliminated an essential Hh signaling component, Smoothened (Smo), in the pancreatic epithelium, and assessed pancreatic development and adult beta-cell physiology phenotypes.


Characterization of Patched1-LacZ reporter mice revealed low-level LacZ expression in pancreatic epithelial cells throughout development until birth, when LacZ activity increases in intensity specifically in endocrine and ductal cells. In the absence of Hh signaling, Smo-deficient mice have delayed pancreas formation leading to a temporary reduction in pancreatic epithelium and beta-cell numbers. Although beta-cell numbers recover by birth, adult Smo-deficient mice display glucose intolerance, increased insulin sensitivity, and reduced total insulin production.


These data show that Hh signaling functions early during pancreas morphogenesis to regulate epithelial and beta-cell expansion and to modulate glucose metabolism by regulating insulin production in adult mice.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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