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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jul 1;105(26):8962-7. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0803569105. Epub 2008 Jun 23.

Remodeling the exocrine pancreas at metamorphosis in Xenopus laevis.

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Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution, 3520 San Martin Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218, USA.


At metamorphosis the Xenopus laevis tadpole exocrine pancreas remodels in two stages. At the climax of metamorphosis thyroid hormone (TH) induces dedifferentiation of the entire exocrine pancreas to a progenitor state. The organ shrinks to 20% of its size, and approximately 40% of its cells die. The acinar cells lose their zymogen granules and approximately 75% of their RNA. The mRNAs that encode exocrine-specific proteins (including the transcription factor Ptf1a) undergo almost complete extinction at climax, whereas PDX-1, Notch-1, and Hes-1, genes implicated in differentiation of the progenitor cells, are activated. At the end of spontaneous metamorphosis when the endogenous TH has reached a low level, the pancreas begins to redifferentiate. Exogenous TH induces the dedifferentiation phase but not the redifferentation phase. The tadpole pancreas lacks the mature ductal system that is found in adult vertebrate pancreases, including the frog. Exocrine pancreases of transgenic tadpoles expressing a dominant negative form of the TH receptor controlled by the elastase promoter are resistant to TH. They do not shrink when subjected to TH. Their acinar cells do not dedifferentiate at climax, nor do they down-regulate exocrine-specific genes or activate Notch-1 and Hes-1. Even 2 months after metamorphosis these frogs have not developed a mature ductal system and the acinar cells are abnormally arranged. The TH-dependent dedifferentiation of the tadpole acinar cells at climax is a necessary step in the formation of a mature frog pancreas.

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