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Diabetologia. 2013 Dec;56(12):2647-50. doi: 10.1007/s00125-013-3049-z. Epub 2013 Sep 13.

Mouse beta cell proliferation is inhibited by thymidine analogue labelling.

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Diabetes Research Center, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Laarbeeklaan 103, B1090, Brussels, Belgium.



Long-term labelling of mice with halogenated thymidine analogues is an established method for quantifying the contribution of beta cell proliferation to in vivo beta cell mass expansion in (re)generation models. The method is believed to give accurate information on the accrued number of cycling beta cells over a period of time. Multiple thymidine analogue labelling is applied for evaluating the duration of postmitotic quiescence in beta cells. We hypothesise, however, that long-term labelling by thymidine analogues hampers beta cell proliferation.


Thymidine analogues were administered for 7-14 days via the i.p. route to neonatal mice, or via drinking water to young mice with normal pancreases or adult mice with injured pancreases. The proliferation of insulin-positive cells was assessed by their expression of the proliferation markers Ki67 or phosphorylated histone H3 and by their incorporation of nucleotide analogues.


In the mouse models of beta cell proliferation investigated herein, long-term administration of thymidine analogues decreased the percentage of Ki67(+) and phosphorylated histone H3(+) beta cells as compared with administration of normal drinking water. Proliferation was restored by washout of the analogue. Labelling with one analogue decreased the subsequent incorporation of another analogue by beta cells.


Long-term labelling with halogenated thymidine analogues is a biased method that underestimates the proliferation and re-division potential of mouse beta cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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