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Int J Dev Biol. 2000 Oct;44(7):791-6.

Role of cell division in branching morphogenesis and differentiation of the embryonic pancreas.

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Department of Biology and Biochemistry, University of Bath, UK.


A new culture system for the embryonic pancreas enables the formation of a branched organ in vitro. In such cultures, each terminal branch originates as a small bud and the number of buds and of terminal branches increases progressively with the expansion of the culture. However buds can also be resorbed during growth. The normal labelling index of cells in incipient buds ("tips") is greater than between buds ("dips") suggesting that budding may be driven by a local increase of cell division. Consistent with this, treatments that reduce cell division repress the formation of buds and branches. It is not possible to initiate budding in isolated endodermal epithelium by treatment with fibroblast growth factor, although this does increase the degree of differentiation of exocrine cells. Cultures in which cell division is completely inhibited by aphidicolin treatment will produce more endocrine cells than usual and inhibit the differentiation of exocrine cells. Consistent with this it is found that in untreated cultures the division of endocrine precursors cannot be detected by BrdU labelling whereas the division of exocrine precursors is frequent. It is concluded that cell division is necessary for bud formation in the embryonic pancreas and that the growth factors required for this normally come from the mesenchyme. Cell division is also necessary for exocrine differentiation. Endocrine cells, however, can arise from undifferentiated progenitors without cell division.

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