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Dev Biol. 2001 Feb 15;230(2):189-203.

Pancreas development in zebrafish: early dispersed appearance of endocrine hormone expressing cells and their convergence to form the definitive islet.

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Institut für Biologie I, Abt. Entwicklungsbiologie, Universität Freiburg, Hauptstrasse 1, Freiburg, D-79104, Germany.


To begin to understand pancreas development and the control of endocrine lineage formation in zebrafish, we have examined the expression pattern of several genes shown to act in vertebrate pancreatic development: pdx-1, insulin (W. M. Milewski et al., 1998, Endocrinology 139, 1440-1449), glucagon, somatostatin (F. Argenton et al., 1999, Mech. Dev. 87, 217-221), islet-1 (Korzh et al., 1993, Development 118, 417-425), nkx2.2 (Barth and Wilson, 1995, Development 121, 1755-1768), and pax6.2 (Nornes et al., 1998, Mech. Dev. 77, 185-196). To determine the spatial relationship between the exocrine and the endocrine compartments, we have cloned the zebrafish trypsin gene, a digestive enzyme expressed in differentiated pancreatic exocrine cells. We found expression of all these genes in the developing pancreas throughout organogenesis. Endocrine cells first appear in a scattered fashion in two bilateral rows close to the midline during mid-somitogenesis and converge during late-somitogenesis to form a single islet dorsal to the nascent duodenum. We have examined development of the endocrine lineage in a number of previously described zebrafish mutations. Deletion of chordamesoderm in floating head (Xnot homolog) mutants reduces islet formation to small remnants, but does not delete the pancreas, indicating that notochord is involved in proper pancreas development, but not required for differentiation of pancreatic cell fates. In the absence of knypek gene function, which is involved in convergence movements, the bilateral endocrine primordia do not merge. Presence of trunk paraxial mesoderm also appears to be instrumental for convergence since the bilateral endocrine primordia do not merge in spadetail mutants. We discuss our findings on zebrafish pancreatogenesis in the light of evolution of the pancreas in chordates.

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