A replenishable source of insulin-producing cells has the potential to cure type 1 diabetes. Attempts to culture and expand pancreatic β-cells in vitro have resulted in their transition from insulin-producing epithelial cells to mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) with high proliferative capacity but devoid of any hormone production. The aim of this study was to determine whether the transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 4 (KLF4), could induce a mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET) of the cultured cells. Islet-enriched pancreatic cells, allowed to dedifferentiate and expand in adherent cell culture, were transduced with an adenovirus containing KLF4 (Ad-Klf4). Cells were subsequently analysed for changes in cell morphology by light microscopy, and for the presence of epithelial and pancreatic markers by immunocytochemistry and quantitative RT/PCR. Infection with Ad-Klf4 resulted in morphological changes, down-regulation of mesenchymal markers, and re-expression of both epithelial and pancreatic cell markers including insulin and transcription factors specific to β-cells. This effect was further enhanced by culturing cells in suspension. However, the effects of Ad-KLf4 were transient and this was shown to be due to increased apoptosis in Klf4-expressing cells. Klf4 has been recently identified as a pioneer factor with the ability to modulate the structure of chromatin and enhance reprogramming/transdifferentiation. Our results show that Klf4 may have a role in the redifferentiation of expanded pancreatic cells in culture, but before this can be achieved the off-target effects that result in increased apoptosis would need to be overcome.
This study investigated whether it is possible to isolate pancreatic endocrine progenitors from differentiating human embryonic stem cell (hESC) cultures by lineage tracing of NGN3. Results indicate that NGN3+ cells represent pancreatic endocrine progenitors in humans. This hESC reporter line is a unique tool that may aid in gaining insight into the developmental mechanisms underlying fate choices in human pancreas and in developing cell-based therapies.
Pancreatic endocrine progenitors obtained from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) represent a promising source to develop cell-based therapies for diabetes. Although endocrine pancreas progenitor cells have been isolated from mouse pancreata on the basis of Ngn3 expression, human endocrine progenitors have not been isolated yet. As substantial differences exist between human and murine pancreas biology, we investigated whether it is possible to isolate pancreatic endocrine progenitors from differentiating hESC cultures by lineage tracing of NGN3. We targeted the 3′ end of NGN3 using zinc finger nuclease-mediated homologous recombination to allow selection of NGN3eGFP+ cells without disrupting the coding sequence of the gene. Isolated NGN3eGFP+ cells express PDX1, NKX6.1, and chromogranin A and differentiate in vivo toward insulin, glucagon, and somatostatin single hormone-expressing cells but not to ductal or exocrine pancreatic cells or other endodermal, mesodermal, or ectodermal lineages. This confirms that NGN3+ cells represent pancreatic endocrine progenitors in humans. In addition, this hESC reporter line constitutes a unique tool that may aid in gaining insight into the developmental mechanisms underlying fate choices in human pancreas and in developing cell-based therapies.
Diabetes; Progenitor cells; Embryonic stem cells; Gene targeting; Differentiation
It is generally accepted that vascularization and oxygenation of pancreatic islets are essential for the maintenance of an optimal β-cell mass and function and that signaling by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is crucial for pancreas development, insulin gene expression/secretion, and (compensatory) β-cell proliferation. A novel mouse model was designed to allow conditional production of human sFlt1 by β-cells in order to trap VEGF and study the effect of time-dependent inhibition of VEGF signaling on adult β-cell fate and metabolism. Secretion of sFlt1 by adult β-cells resulted in a rapid regression of blood vessels and hypoxia within the islets. Besides blunted insulin release, β-cells displayed a remarkable capacity for coping with these presumed unfavorable conditions: even after prolonged periods of blood vessel ablation, basal and stimulated blood glucose levels were only slightly increased, while β-cell proliferation and mass remained unaffected. Moreover, ablation of blood vessels did not prevent β-cell generation after severe pancreas injury by partial pancreatic duct ligation or partial pancreatectomy. Our data thus argue against a major role of blood vessels to preserve adult β-cell generation and function, restricting their importance to facilitating rapid and adequate insulin delivery.
Combining immune intervention with therapies that directly influence the functional state of the β-cells is an interesting strategy in type 1 diabetes cure. Dipeptidyl peptidase-4 (DPP-4) inhibitors elevate circulating levels of active incretins, which have been reported to enhance insulin secretion and synthesis, can support β-cell survival and possibly stimulate β-cell proliferation and neogenesis. In the current study, we demonstrate that the DPP-4 inhibitor MK626, which has appropriate pharmacokinetics in mice, preceded by a short-course of low-dose anti-CD3 generated durable diabetes remission in new-onset diabetic non-obese diabetic (NOD) mice. Induction of remission involved recovery of β-cell secretory function with resolution of destructive insulitis and preservation of β-cell volume/mass, along with repair of the islet angioarchitecture via SDF-1- and VEGF-dependent actions. Combination therapy temporarily reduced the CD4-to-CD8 distribution in spleen although not in pancreatic draining lymph nodes (PLN) and increased the proportion of effector/memory T cells as did anti-CD3 alone. In contrast, only combination therapy amplified Foxp3+ regulatory T cells in PLN and locally in pancreas. These findings open new opportunities for the treatment of new-onset type 1 diabetes by introducing DPP-4 inhibitors in human CD3-directed clinical trials.
We recently reported that human blood outgrowth endothelial cells (BOEC) are supportive to reverse hyperglycemia in marginal islet mass-transplanted diabetic mice. In this report, we investigated whether the observed effect was evoked by islet packing in a blood clot prior to transplantation or could be mimicked by another method of islet/cell delivery. A marginal islet mass with or without BOEC was grafted underneath the kidney capsule of diabetic recipient mice via a (blood clot-independent) tubing system and compared with previous islet packing in a blood clot. The effect on metabolic outcome of both delivery techniques as well as the additive effect of BOEC was subsequently evaluated. Marginal islet mass transplantation via a tubing system required more islets per recipient than via a blood clot. Using the tubing method, transplantation of a marginal islet mass combined with 5 x 105 BOEC resulted in reversal of hyperglycemia, improved glucose tolerance and increased kidney insulin content. The present study provides evidence that (1) previous packing in a blood clot results in more effective islet delivery compared with tubing; (2) BOEC exert a beneficial effect on marginal islet transplantation, independent of grafting technique and potential blood clot-induced processes. These data further support the use of BOEC in (pre-) clinical studies that aim to improve current islet transplantation protocols.
diabetes; mouse; islets; transplantation; tubing; blood clot; endothelial cells
Because of the lack of tissue available for islet transplantation, new sources of β-cells have been sought for the treatment of type 1 diabetes. The aim of this study was to determine whether the human exocrine-enriched fraction from the islet isolation procedure could be reprogrammed to provide additional islet tissue for transplantation. The exocrine-enriched cells rapidly dedifferentiated in culture and grew as a mesenchymal monolayer. Genetic lineage tracing confirmed that these mesenchymal cells arose, in part, through a process of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transitioning (EMT). A protocol was developed whereby transduction of these mesenchymal cells with adenoviruses containing Pdx1, Ngn3, MafA, and Pax4 generated a population of cells that were enriched in glucagon-secreting α-like cells. Transdifferentiation or reprogramming toward insulin-secreting β-cells was enhanced, however, when using unpassaged cells in combination with inhibition of EMT by inclusion of Rho-associated kinase (ROCK) and transforming growth factor-β1 inhibitors. Resultant cells were able to secrete insulin in response to glucose and on transplantation were able to normalize blood glucose levels in streptozotocin diabetic NOD/SCID mice. In conclusion, reprogramming of human exocrine-enriched tissue can be best achieved using fresh material under conditions whereby EMT is inhibited, rather than allowing the culture to expand as a mesenchymal monolayer.
Reprogramming of pancreatic exocrine cells into cells resembling beta cells may provide a strategy for treating diabetes. Here we show that transient administration of epidermal growth factor and ciliary neurotrophic factor to adult mice with chronic hyperglycemia efficiently stimulates the conversion of terminally differentiated acinar cells to beta-like cells. Newly generated beta-like cells are epigenetically reprogrammed, functional and glucose-responsive, and reinstate normal glycemic control for up to 248 days. The regenerative process depends on Stat3 signaling and requires a threshold number of Neurogenin 3 (Ngn3) expressing acinar cells. In contrast to previous work demonstrating in vivo conversion of acinar cells to beta-like cells by viral delivery of exogenous transcription factors, our approach achieves acinar-to-beta cell reprogramming through transient cytokine exposure rather than genetic modification.
Growing evidence suggests that a phenotypic switch converting pancreatic acinar cells to duct-like cells can lead to pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) and eventually to invasive pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma. Histologically, the onset of this switch is characterised by the co-expression of acinar and ductal markers in acini, a lesion called acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM). Transcriptional regulators required to initiate ADM still remain unknown, yet need to be identified to characterise the regulatory networks that drive ADM. Here we investigate the role of the ductal transcription factors Hepatocyte Nuclear Factor 6 (HNF6, also known as Onecut1)and SRY-related HMG box factor 9 (Sox9) in ADM.
Expression of HNF6 and Sox9 is measured by immunostaining in normal and diseased human pancreas. The function of the factors is tested in cultured cells and in mouse models of ADM by a combination of gain- and loss-of-function experiments.
Expression of HNF6 and Sox9 is ectopically induced in acinar cells in human ADM, as well as in mouse models of ADM. We show that these factors are required for repression of acinar genes, for modulation of ADM-associated changes in cell polarity, and for activation of ductal genes in metaplastic acinar cells.
HNF6 and Sox9 are new biomarkers of ADM and constitute candidate targets for preventive therapy in cases when ADM may lead to cancer. Our work also highlights that ectopic activation of transcription factors may underlie metaplastic processes occurring in other organs.
Mice; transcription factors; pancreas; metaplasia
Recently, it was demonstrated that pancreatic new-born glucagon-producing cells can regenerate and convert into insulin-producing β-like cells through the ectopic expression of a single gene, Pax4. Here, combining conditional loss-of-function and lineage tracing approaches, we show that the selective inhibition of the Arx gene in α-cells is sufficient to promote the conversion of adult α-cells into β-like cells at any age. Interestingly, this conversion induces the continuous mobilization of duct-lining precursor cells to adopt an endocrine cell fate, the glucagon+ cells thereby generated being subsequently converted into β-like cells upon Arx inhibition. Of interest, through the generation and analysis of Arx and Pax4 conditional double-mutants, we provide evidence that Pax4 is dispensable for these regeneration processes, indicating that Arx represents the main trigger of α-cell-mediated β-like cell neogenesis. Importantly, the loss of Arx in α-cells is sufficient to regenerate a functional β-cell mass and thereby reverse diabetes following toxin-induced β-cell depletion. Our data therefore suggest that strategies aiming at inhibiting the expression of Arx, or its molecular targets/co-factors, may pave new avenues for the treatment of diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is a condition that results from the loss of insulin-producing β-cells. Despite current therapies, diabetic patients are prone to vascular complications. Using the mouse as a model, we previously found that pancreatic glucagon-expressing cells can be regenerated and converted into β-like cells by the forced expression of a single gene, Pax4. Here, we generated transgenic mice allowing both the permanent labeling of α-cells and the inactivation of Arx solely in this cell subtype. Our results indicate that, upon Arx inactivation, α-cells can be continuously regenerated from duct-lining precursors and converted into β-like cells. Importantly, the additional loss of Pax4 does not impact these processes, suggesting that Arx is the main trigger of α-cell-mediated β-like cell neogenesis. Most interestingly, upon chemical induction of diabetes/β-cell loss, while control animals die or remain severely hyperglycemic, a normalization of the glycemia, a clear regeneration of the β-like cell mass, and an extended lifespan are noted in animals with the conditional inactivation of Arx. Our data therefore suggest that strategies aiming at inhibiting the expression of Arx, or its molecular targets/co-factors, may pave new avenues for the treatment of diabetes.
Lgr5 marks adult stem cells in multiple adult organs and is a receptor for the Wnt-agonistic R-spondins (RSPOs). Intestinal, stomach and liver Lgr5+ stem cells grow in 3D cultures to form ever-expanding organoids, which resemble the tissues of origin. Wnt signalling is inactive and Lgr5 is not expressed under physiological conditions in the adult pancreas. However, we now report that the Wnt pathway is robustly activated upon injury by partial duct ligation (PDL), concomitant with the appearance of Lgr5 expression in regenerating pancreatic ducts. In vitro, duct fragments from mouse pancreas initiate Lgr5 expression in RSPO1-based cultures, and develop into budding cyst-like structures (organoids) that expand five-fold weekly for >40 weeks. Single isolated duct cells can also be cultured into pancreatic organoids, containing Lgr5 stem/progenitor cells that can be clonally expanded. Clonal pancreas organoids can be induced to differentiate into duct as well as endocrine cells upon transplantation, thus proving their bi-potentiality.
Unlimited in vitro expansion of adult bi-potent pancreas progenitors through the Lgr5/R-spondin axis
The establishment of conditions for long-term culture and expansion of adult, bi-potent pancreas progenitors may facilitate novel and tailored therapeutic approaches.
beta cell; duct cell; pancreas; Wnt; stem cell
β-cell replacement may efficiently cure type 1 diabetic (T1D) patients whose insulin-secreting β-cells have been selectively destroyed by autoantigen-reactive T cells. To generate insulin-secreting cells we used two cell sources: rat multipotent adult progenitor cells (rMAPC) and the highly similar rat extra-embryonic endoderm precursor (rXEN-P) cells isolated under rMAPC conditions from blastocysts (rHypoSC). rMAPC/rHypoSC were sequentially committed to definitive endoderm, pancreatic endoderm, and β-cell like cells. On day 21, 20% of rMAPC/rHypoSC progeny expressed Pdx1 and C-peptide. rMAPCr/HypoSC progeny secreted C-peptide under the stimulus of insulin agonist carbachol, and was inhibited by the L-type voltage-dependent calcium channel blocker nifedipine. When rMAPC or rHypoSC differentiated d21 progeny were grafted under the kidney capsule of streptozotocin-induced diabetic nude mice, hyperglycemia reversed after 4 weeks in 6/10 rMAPC- and 5/10 rHypoSC-transplanted mice. Hyperglycemia recurred within 24 hours of graft removal and the histological analysis of the retrieved grafts revealed presence of Pdx1-, Nkx6.1- and C-peptide-positive cells. The ability of both rMAPC and HypoSC to differentiate to functional β-cell like cells may serve to gain insight into signals that govern β-cell differentiation and aid in developing culture systems to commit other (pluripotent) stem cells to clinically useful β-cells for cell therapy of T1D.
Effective gene transfer to the pancreas or to pancreatic cells has remained elusive although it is essential for studies of genetic lineage tracing and modulation of gene expression. Different transduction methods and viral vectors were tested in vitro and in vivo, in rat and mouse pancreas.
For in vitro transfection/transduction of rat exocrine cells lipofection reagents, adenoviral vectors, and Mokola- and VSV-G pseudotyped lentiviral vectors were used. For in vivo transduction of mouse and rat pancreas adenoviral vectors and VSV-G lentiviral vectors were injected into the parenchymal tissue. Both lipofection of rat exocrine cell cultures and transduction with Mokola pseudotyped lentiviral vectors were inefficient and resulted in less than 4% EGFP expressing cells. Adenoviral transduction was highly efficient but its usefulness for gene delivery to rat exocrine cells in vitro was hampered by a drastic increase in cell death. In vitro transduction of rat exocrine cells was most optimal with VSV-G pseudotyped lentiviral vectors, with stable transgene expression, no significant effect on cell survival and about 40% transduced cells. In vivo, pancreatic cells could not be transduced by intra-parenchymal administration of lentiviral vectors in mouse and rat pancreas. However, a high efficiency could be obtained by adenoviral vectors, resulting in transient transduction of mainly exocrine acinar cells. Injection in immune-deficient animals diminished leukocyte infiltration and prolonged transgene expression.
In summary, our study remarkably demonstrates that transduction of pancreatic exocrine cells requires lentiviral vectors in vitro but adenoviral vectors in vivo.
Lentiviral vector; Adenoviral vector; Lipofection; Gene transfer; Pancreas; Acinar cell
Duct cells isolated from adult human pancreas can be reprogrammed to express islet beta cell genes by adenoviral transduction of the developmental transcription factor neurogenin3 (Ngn3). In this study we aimed to fully characterize the extent of this reprogramming and intended to improve it.
The extent of the Ngn3-mediated duct-to-endocrine cell reprogramming was measured employing genome wide mRNA profiling. By modulation of the Delta-Notch signaling or addition of pancreatic endocrine transcription factors Myt1, MafA and Pdx1 we intended to improve the reprogramming.
Ngn3 stimulates duct cells to express a focused set of genes that are characteristic for islet endocrine cells and/or neural tissues. This neuro-endocrine shift however, is incomplete with less than 10% of full duct-to-endocrine reprogramming achieved. Transduction of exogenous Ngn3 activates endogenous Ngn3 suggesting auto-activation of this gene. Furthermore, pancreatic endocrine reprogramming of human duct cells can be moderately enhanced by inhibition of Delta-Notch signaling as well as by co-expressing the transcription factor Myt1, but not MafA and Pdx1.
The results provide further insight into the plasticity of adult human duct cells and suggest measurable routes to enhance Ngn3-mediated in vitro reprogramming protocols for regenerative beta cell therapy in diabetes.
The pancreas is composed of two main compartments consisting of endocrine and exocrine tissues. The majority of the organ is exocrine and responsible for the synthesis of digestive enzymes and for their transport via an intricate ductal system into the duodenum. The endocrine tissue represents less than 2% of the organ and is organized into functional units called islets of Langerhans, comprising alpha-, beta-, delta-, epsilon- and PP–cells, producing the hormones glucagon, insulin, somatostatin, ghrelin and pancreatic polypeptide (PP), respectively. Insulin-producing beta-cells play a central role in the control of the glucose homeostasis. Accordingly, absolute or relative deficiency in beta-cells may ultimately lead to type 1 and/or type 2 diabetes, respectively. One major goal of diabetes research is therefore to understand the molecular mechanisms controlling the development of beta-cells during pancreas morphogenesis, but also those underlying the regeneration of adult injured pancreas, and assess their significance for future cell-based therapy. In this review, we will therefore present new insights into beta-cell development with focus on beta-cell regeneration.
pancreas; stem cells; regeneration; mouse; diabetes
Background and Methodology
The aim of this study was to establish a gene expression blueprint of pancreatic beta cells conserved from rodents to humans and to evaluate its applicability to assess shifts in the beta cell differentiated state. Genome-wide mRNA expression profiles of isolated beta cells were compared to those of a large panel of other tissue and cell types, and transcripts with beta cell-abundant and -selective expression were identified. Iteration of this analysis in mouse, rat and human tissues generated a panel of conserved beta cell biomarkers. This panel was then used to compare isolated versus laser capture microdissected beta cells, monitor adaptations of the beta cell phenotype to fasting, and retrieve possible conserved transcriptional regulators.
A panel of 332 conserved beta cell biomarker genes was found to discriminate both isolated and laser capture microdissected beta cells from all other examined cell types. Of all conserved beta cell-markers, 15% were strongly beta cell-selective and functionally associated to hormone processing, 15% were shared with neuronal cells and associated to regulated synaptic vesicle transport and 30% with immune plus gut mucosal tissues reflecting active protein synthesis. Fasting specifically down-regulated the latter cluster, but preserved the neuronal and strongly beta cell-selective traits, indicating preserved differentiated state. Analysis of consensus binding site enrichment indicated major roles of CREB/ATF and various nutrient- or redox-regulated transcription factors in maintenance of differentiated beta cell phenotype.
Conserved beta cell marker genes contain major gene clusters defined by their beta cell selectivity or by their additional abundance in either neural cells or in immune plus gut mucosal cells. This panel can be used as a template to identify changes in the differentiated state of beta cells.
Generating functional β-cells by inducing their proliferation may provide new perspectives for cell therapy in diabetes. Transcription factor E2F1 controls G1- to S-phase transition during the cycling of many cell types and is required for pancreatic β-cell growth and function. However, the consequences of overexpression of E2F1 in β-cells are unknown.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
The effects of E2F1 overexpression on β-cell proliferation and function were analyzed in isolated rat β-cells and in transgenic mice.
Adenovirus AdE2F1-mediated overexpression of E2F1 increased the proliferation of isolated primary rat β-cells 20-fold but also enhanced β-cell death. Coinfection with adenovirus AdAkt expressing a constitutively active form of Akt (protein kinase B) suppressed β-cell death to control levels. At 48 h after infection, the total β-cell number and insulin content were, respectively, 46 and 79% higher in AdE2F1+AdAkt-infected cultures compared with untreated. Conditional overexpression of E2F1 in mice resulted in a twofold increase of β-cell proliferation and a 70% increase of pancreatic insulin content, but did not increase β-cell mass. Glucose-challenged insulin release was increased, and the mice showed protection against toxin-induced diabetes.
Overexpression of E2F1, either in vitro or in vivo, can stimulate β-cell proliferation activity. In vivo E2F1 expression significantly increases the insulin content and function of adult β-cells, making it a strategic target for therapeutic manipulation of β-cell function.
Facultative endocrine progenitor cell; Endocrine pancreas development; Arx; Pax4; Mouse; Diabetes; Fate specification
In both humans and rodents, glucose homeostasis is controlled by micro-organs called islets of Langerhans composed of beta cells, associated with other endocrine cell types. Most of our understanding of islet cell differentiation and morphogenesis is derived from rodent developmental studies. However, little is known about human islet formation. The lack of adequate experimental models has restricted the study of human pancreatic development to the histological analysis of different stages of pancreatic development. Our objective was to develop a new experimental model to (i) transfer genes into developing human pancreatic cells and (ii) validate gene transfer by defining the clonality of developing human islets.
Methods and Findings
In this study, a unique model was developed combining ex vivo organogenesis from human fetal pancreatic tissue and cell type-specific lentivirus-mediated gene transfer. Human pancreatic progenitors were transduced with lentiviruses expressing GFP under the control of an insulin promoter and grafted to severe combined immunodeficient mice, allowing human beta cell differentiation and islet morphogenesis. By performing gene transfer at low multiplicity of infection, we created a chimeric graft with a subpopulation of human beta cells expressing GFP and found both GFP-positive and GFP-negative beta cells within single islets.
The detection of both labeled and unlabeled beta cells in single islets demonstrates that beta cells present in a human islet are derived from multiple progenitors thus providing the first dynamic analysis of human islet formation during development. This human transgenic-like tool can be widely used to elucidate dynamic genetic processes in human tissue formation.
Regulatory proteins have been identified in embryonic development of the endocrine pancreas. It is unknown whether these factors can also play a role in the formation of pancreatic endocrine cells from postnatal nonendocrine cells. The present study demonstrates that adult human pancreatic duct cells can be converted into insulin-expressing cells after ectopic, adenovirus-mediated expression of the class B basic helix-loop-helix factor neurogenin 3 (ngn3), which is a critical factor in embryogenesis of the mouse endocrine pancreas. Infection with adenovirus ngn3 (Adngn3) induced gene and/or protein expression of NeuroD/β2, Pax4, Nkx2.2, Pax6, and Nkx6.1, all known to be essential for β-cell differentiation in mouse embryos. Expression of ngn3 in adult human duct cells induced Notch ligands Dll1 and Dll4 and neuroendocrine- and β-cell–specific markers: it increased the percentage of synaptophysin- and insulin-positive cells 15-fold in ngn3-infected versus control cells. Infection with NeuroD/β2 (a downstream target of ngn3) induced similar effects. These data indicate that the Delta-Notch pathway, which controls embryonic development of the mouse endocrine pancreas, can also operate in adult human duct cells driving them to a neuroendocrine phenotype with the formation of insulin-expressing cells.
neurogenin 3; islets of langerhans; transdifferentiation; insulin; diabetes mellitus