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Dev Cell. 2007 Jul;13(1):103-14.

A multipotent progenitor domain guides pancreatic organogenesis.

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Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.


The mammalian pancreas is constructed during embryogenesis by multipotent progenitors, the identity and function of which remain poorly understood. We performed genome-wide transcription factor expression analysis of the developing pancreas to identify gene expression domains that may represent distinct progenitor cell populations. Five discrete domains were discovered. Genetic lineage-tracing experiments demonstrate that one specific domain, located at the tip of the branching pancreatic tree, contains multipotent progenitors that produce exocrine, endocrine, and duct cells in vivo. These multipotent progenitors are Pdx1(+)Ptf1a(+)cMyc(High)Cpa1(+) and negative for differentiated lineage markers. The outgrowth of multipotent tip cells leaves behind differentiated progeny that form the trunk of the branches. These findings define a multipotent compartment within the developing pancreas and suggest a model of how branching is coordinated with cell type specification. In addition, this comprehensive analysis of >1,100 transcription factors identified genes that are likely to control critical decisions in pancreas development and disease.

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