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Differentiation. 1993 Jul;53(3):163-72.

Pancreatic morphogenesis and extracellular matrix organization during rat development.

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Department of Pathology and Oncology, School of Medicine, University of Occupational and Environmental Health, Kitakyushu, Japan.


We investigated the rat pancreatic morphology at various developmental stages ranging from 12 days of gestation to the neonatal stage, with special emphasis on alterations in extracellular matrix organization in vivo. The rat pancreatic development in utero could be divided into four representative stages as follows: (1) initial epithelial buds (12 days of gestation), (2) elongated and branching epithelium (13-14 days), (3) tubular structure (15-16 days), and (4) acinar structure (17 days or more). Ultrastructurally, the fetal and neonatal pancreata were almost constantly encompassed by continuous basal lamina, except for the earliest stage, in which minute disruptions of basal lamina were observed. Through the disruption, the direct epithelial-mesenchymal contact was formed between an endocrine cell and an adjacent mesenchymal cell, which implied epithelial-mesenchymal interactions in processes of endocrine cell differentiation. Collagen fibrils were frequently accumulated at the cleft (branchpoint) of the branching epithelium during the second and third stages mentioned above. Immunohistochemically, fibronectin and collagen type-I were localized particularly beside the neck (narrow part) or cleft of the pancreatic epithelium at these stages, although continuous linear localization of these matrices was noted around the initial pancreatic bud. This was in contrast to invariable linear localization of laminin and collagen type-IV at the epithelial/mesenchymal interface throughout the pancreatic development. Diffuse fibrillar localization of fibronectin and collagen type-I in the mesenchyme was pronounced at the later stages and after birth. Collagen type-III was only focally detectable around the pancreatic epithelium from the second stage, and its distinct localization was noted in the interlobular connective tissue after birth. Thus, chronological changes in extracellular matrix organization seemed to be closely related to morphogenetic processes of the rat pancreas, especially in the branching epithelial morphogenesis, and the major alterations appeared prior to distinct acinar cell differentiation.

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