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Development. 2012 May;139(10):1744-53. doi: 10.1242/dev.075804. Epub 2012 Mar 29.

Notch-mediated patterning and cell fate allocation of pancreatic progenitor cells.

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Lerner Research Institute, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH 44195, USA.


Early pancreatic morphogenesis is characterized by the transformation of an uncommitted pool of pancreatic progenitor cells into a branched pancreatic epithelium that consists of 'tip' and 'trunk' domains. These domains have distinct molecular signatures and differentiate into distinct pancreatic cell lineages. Cells at the branched tips of the epithelium develop into acinar cells, whereas cells in the trunk subcompartment differentiate into endocrine and duct cells. Recent genetic analyses have highlighted the role of key transcriptional regulators in the specification of these subcompartments. Here, we analyzed in mice the role of Notch signaling in the patterning of multipotent pancreatic progenitor cells through mosaic overexpression of a Notch signaling antagonist, dominant-negative mastermind-like 1, resulting in a mixture of wild-type and Notch-suppressed pancreatic progenitor cells. We find that attenuation of Notch signaling has pronounced patterning effects on multipotent pancreatic progenitor cells prior to terminal differentiation. Relative to the wild-type cells, the Notch-suppressed cells lose trunk marker genes and gain expression of tip marker genes. The Notch-suppressed cells subsequently differentiate into acinar cells, whereas duct and endocrine populations are formed predominantly from the wild-type cells. Mechanistically, these observations could be explained by a requirement of Notch for the expression of the trunk determination gene Nkx6.1. This was supported by the finding of direct binding of RBP-jκ to the Nkx6.1 proximal promoter.

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