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Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2010 Apr;298(4):G518-24. doi: 10.1152/ajpgi.00431.2009. Epub 2010 Jan 28.

Transgenic expression of pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitor-1 rescues SPINK3-deficient mice and restores a normal pancreatic phenotype.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Duke University, Durham, NC 27710, USA.


Endogenous trypsin inhibitors are synthesized, stored, and secreted by pancreatic acinar cells. It is believed that they play a protective role in the pancreas by inhibiting trypsin within the cell should trypsinogen become prematurely activated. Rodent trypsin inhibitors are highly homologous to human serine protease inhibitor Kazal-type 1 (SPINK1). The mouse has one pancreatic trypsin inhibitor known as SPINK3, and the rat has two trypsin inhibitors commonly known as pancreatic secretory trypsin inhibitors I and II (PSTI-I and -II). Rat PSTI-I is a 61-amino acid protein that shares 65% sequence identity with mouse SPINK3. It was recently demonstrated that mice with genetic deletion of the Spink3 gene (Spink3(-/-)) do not survive beyond 15 days and lack normal pancreata because of pancreatic autophagy. We have shown that targeted transgenic expression of the rat Psti1 gene to acinar cells in mice [TgN(Psti1)] protects mice against caerulein-induced pancreatitis. To determine whether the autophagic phenotype and lethality in Spink3(-/-) mice were due to lack of pancreatic trypsin inhibitor, we conducted breeding studies with Spink3(+/-) heterozygous mice and TgN(Psti1) mice. We observed that, whereas Spink3(+/+), Spink3(+/-), and Spink3(-/-)/TgN(Psti1) mice had similar survival rates, no Spink3(-/-) mice survived longer than 1 wk. The level of expression of SPINK3 protein in acini was reduced in heterozygote mice compared with wild-type mice. Furthermore, endogenous trypsin inhibitor capacity was reduced in the pancreas of heterozygote mice compared with wild-type or knockout mice rescued with the rat Psti1 gene. Surprisingly, the lesser amount of SPINK3 present in the pancreata of heterozygote mice did not predispose animals to increased susceptibility to caerulein-induced acute pancreatitis. We propose that a threshold level of expression is sufficient to protect against pancreatitis.

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