Send to

Choose Destination
Cell Death Differ. 2003 Sep;10(9):987-96.

Signals for death and differentiation: a two-step mechanism for in vitro transformation of adult islets of Langerhans to duct epithelial structures.

Author information

Department of Surgery, Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center, Montreal, Canada.


Phenotypic change of adult pancreatic islets has been implicated in the development of certain pancreatic cancers and in islet transplant failure. The aim of this study was to characterize intracellular events that mediate changes in adult islet phenotype. Using an in vitro islet-to-duct transformation model, canine islets were induced to undergo phenotypic transformation to duct-like epithelial structures through a two-stage process. Stage one was characterized by widespread islet cell apoptosis associated with the formation of cavitary spaces within the islets. During this stage, c-Jun N-terminal regulated kinase (JNK) and caspase-3 activities were elevated, while extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) and Akt activities were decreased. The second stage of the process was characterized by an inversion in the balance in activity between these signal transduction pathways and by a concomitant decrease in apoptosis. The transformed islets were no longer immunoreactive for islet cell hormones, but expressed the duct epithelial cell marker CK-AE1/AE3. In contrast to islet cells, these duct epithelial cells were highly proliferative. To clarify the role of the identified changes in signal transduction events, we performed additional studies using pharmacological inhibitors of enzyme activity and demonstrated that inhibition of JNK and caspase-3 activity prevented cystic transformation. Our results indicate that the balance in signaling activity between ERK/Akt and JNK/caspase-3 appears to be an important regulator of islet cell death and differentiation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free full text

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center