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Dev Biol. 2007 Dec 15;312(2):523-32. Epub 2007 Oct 5.

Genetic identification of a novel NeuroD1 function in the early differentiation of islet alpha, PP and epsilon cells.

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University of Colorado at Denver and Health Science Center, Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics Department, Aurora, CO 80045, USA.


Nkx2.2 and NeuroD1 are vital for proper differentiation of pancreatic islet cell types. Nkx2.2-null mice fail to form beta cells, have reduced numbers of alpha and PP cells and display an increase in ghrelin-producing epsilon cells. NeuroD1-null mice display a reduction of alpha and beta cells after embryonic day (e) 17.5. To begin to determine the relative contributions of Nkx2.2 and NeuroD1 in islet development, we generated Nkx2.2-/-;NeuroD1-/- double knockout (DKO) mice. As expected, the DKO mice fail to form beta cells, similar to the Nkx2.2-null mice, suggesting that the Nkx2.2 phenotype may be dominant over the NeuroD1 phenotype in the beta cells. Surprisingly, however, the alpha, PP and epsilon phenotypes of the Nkx2.2-null mice are partially rescued by the simultaneous elimination of NeuroD1, even at early developmental time points when NeuroD1 null mice alone do not display a phenotype. Our results indicate that Nkx2.2 and NeuroD1 interact to regulate pancreatic islet cell fates, and this epistatic relationship is cell-type dependent. Furthermore, this study reveals a previously unappreciated early function of NeuroD1 in regulating the specification of alpha, PP and epsilon cells.

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