Transforming growth factor (TGF)beta, fibroblast growth factor (FGF) and retinoid signalling pathways promote pancreatic exocrine gene expression in mouse embryonic stem cells

Anouchka Skoudy, Meritxell Rovira, Pierre Savatier, Franz Martin, Trinidad León-Quinto, Bernat Soria, Francisco X Real
Biochemical Journal 2004 May 1, 379: 749-56
Extracellular signalling cues play a major role in the activation of differentiation programmes. Mouse embryonic stem (ES) cells are pluripotent and can differentiate into a wide variety of specialized cells. Recently, protocols designed to induce endocrine pancreatic differentiation in vitro have been designed but little information is currently available concerning the potential of ES cells to differentiate into acinar pancreatic cells. By using conditioned media of cultured foetal pancreatic rudiments, we demonstrate that ES cells can respond in vitro to signalling pathways involved in exocrine development and differentiation. In particular, modulation of the hedgehog, transforming growth factor beta, retinoid, and fibroblast growth factor pathways in ES cell-derived embryoid bodies (EB) resulted in increased levels of transcripts encoding pancreatic transcription factors and cytodifferentiation markers, as demonstrated by RT-PCR. In EB undergoing spontaneous differentiation, expression of the majority of the acinar genes (i.e. amylase, carboxypeptidase A and elastase) was induced after the expression of endocrine genes, as occurs in vivo during development. These data indicate that ES cells can undergo exocrine pancreatic differentiation with a kinetic pattern of expression reminiscent of pancreas development in vivo and that ES cells can be coaxed to express an acinar phenotype by activation of signalling pathways known to play a role in pancreatic development and differentiation.

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