Abstract

All pancreatic endocrine cells, producing glucagon, insulin, somatostatin, or PP, differentiate from Pdx1+ progenitors that transiently express Neurogenin3. To understand whether the competence of pancreatic progenitors changes over time, we generated transgenic mice expressing a tamoxifen-inducible Ngn3 fusion protein under the control of the pdx1 promoter and backcrossed the transgene into the ngn3(-/-) background, devoid of endogenous endocrine cells. Early activation of Ngn3-ER(TM) almost exclusively induced glucagon+ cells, while depleting the pool of pancreas progenitors. As from E11.5, Pdx1+ progenitors became competent to differentiate into insulin+ and PP+ cells. Somatostatin+ cells were generated from E14.5, while the competence to make glucagon+ cells was dramatically decreased. Hence, pancreas progenitors, similar to retinal or cortical progenitors, go through competence states that each allow the generation of a subset of cell types. We further show that the progenitors acquire competence to generate late-born cells in a mechanism that is intrinsic to the epithelium.

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