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.
A significant portion of the genome is transcribed as long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), several of which are known to control gene expression. The repertoire and regulation of lncRNAs in disease-relevant tissues, however, has not been systematically explored. We report a comprehensive strand-specific transcriptome map of human pancreatic islets and β-cells, and uncover >1100 intergenic and antisense islet-cell lncRNA genes. We find islet lncRNAs that are dynamically regulated, and show that they are an integral component of the β-cell differentiation and maturation program. We sequenced the mouse islet transcriptome, and identify lncRNA orthologs that are regulated like their human counterparts. Depletion of HI-LNC25, a β-cell specific lncRNA, downregulated GLIS3 mRNA, thus exemplifying a gene regulatory function of islet lncRNAs. Finally, selected islet lncRNAs were dysregulated in type 2 diabetes or mapped to genetic loci underlying diabetes susceptibility. These findings reveal a new class of islet-cell genes relevant to β-cell programming and diabetes pathophysiology.
Pluripotent embryonic stem cells (ESC) are a promising cellular system for generating an unlimited source of tissue for the treatment of chronic diseases and valuable in vitro differentiation models for drug testing. Our aim was to direct differentiation of mouse ESC into pancreatic acinar cells, which play key roles in pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer. To that end, ESC were first differentiated as embryoid bodies and sequentially incubated with activin A, inhibitors of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) and bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) pathways, fibroblast growth factors (FGF) and retinoic acid (RA) in order to achieve a stepwise increase in the expression of mRNA transcripts encoding for endodermal and pancreatic progenitor markers. Subsequent plating in Matrigel® and concomitant modulation of FGF, glucocorticoid, and folllistatin signalling pathways involved in exocrine differentiation resulted in a significant increase of mRNAs encoding secretory enzymes and in the number of cells co-expressing their protein products. Also, pancreatic endocrine marker expression was down-regulated and accompanied by a significant reduction in the number of hormone-expressing cells with a limited presence of hepatic marker expressing-cells. These findings suggest a selective activation of the acinar differentiation program. The newly differentiated cells were able to release α-amylase and this feature was greatly improved by lentiviral-mediated expression of Rbpjl and Ptf1a, two transcription factors involved in the maximal production of digestive enzymes. This study provides a novel method to produce functional pancreatic exocrine cells from ESC.
Class IIa histone deacetylases (HDACs) belong to a large family of enzymes involved in protein deacetylation and play a role in regulating gene expression and cell differentiation. Previously, we showed that HDAC inhibitors modify the timing and determination of pancreatic cell fate. The aim of this study was to determine the role of class IIa HDACs in pancreas development.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
We took a genetic approach and analyzed the pancreatic phenotype of mice lacking HDAC4, -5, and -9. We also developed a novel method of lentiviral infection of pancreatic explants and performed gain-of-function experiments.
We show that class IIa HDAC4, -5, and -9 have an unexpected restricted expression in the endocrine β- and δ-cells of the pancreas. Analyses of the pancreas of class IIa HDAC mutant mice revealed an increased pool of insulin-producing β-cells in Hdac5−/− and Hdac9−/− mice and an increased pool of somatostatin-producing δ-cells in Hdac4−/− and Hdac5−/− mice. Conversely, HDAC4 and HDAC5 overexpression showed a decreased pool of insulin-producing β-cells and somatostatin-producing δ-cells. Finally, treatment of pancreatic explants with the selective class IIa HDAC inhibitor MC1568 enhances expression of Pax4, a key factor required for proper β-and δ-cell differentiation and amplifies endocrine β- and δ-cells.
We conclude that HDAC4, -5, and -9 are key regulators to control the pancreatic β/δ-cell lineage. These results highlight the epigenetic mechanisms underlying the regulation of endocrine cell development and suggest new strategies for β-cell differentiation-based therapies.
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 pathogenesis of cerebral malaria (CM) remains largely unknown. There is growing evidence that combination of both parasite and host factors could be involved in blood–brain barrier (BBB) breakdown. However, lack of adequate in vitro model of human BBB so far hampered molecular studies. In this article, we propose the use of hCMEC/D3 cells, a well-established human cerebral microvascular endothelial cell (EC) line, to study BBB breakdown induced by Plasmodium falciparum-parasitized red blood cells and environmental conditions. We show that coculture of parasitized erythrocytes with hCMEC/D3 cells induces cell adhesion and paracellular permeability increase, which correlates with disorganization of zonula occludens protein 1 expression pattern. Permeability increase and modification of tight junction proteins distribution are cytoadhesion independent. Finally, we show that permeability of hCMEC/D3 cell monolayers is mediated through parasite induced metabolic acidosis, which in turns correlates with apoptosis of parasitized erythrocytes. This new coculture model represents a very useful tool, which will improve the knowledge of BBB breakdown and the development of adjuvant therapies, together with antiparasitic drugs.
brain endothelial cell line; cerebral malaria; human ICAM-1; metabolic acidosis; permeability; Plasmodium falciparum
Cellular differentiation and lineage commitment have previously been considered irreversible processes. However, recent studies have indicated that differentiated adult cells can be reprogrammed to pluripotency and, in some cases, directly into alternate committed lineages. However, although pluripotent cells can be induced in numerous somatic cell sources, it was thought that inducing alternate committed lineages is primarily only possible in cells of developmentally related tissues. Here, we challenge this view and analyze whether direct adult cell reprogramming to alternate committed lineages can cross the boundaries of distinct developmental germ layers.
We ectopically expressed non-integrating pancreatic differentiation factors in ectoderm-derived human keratinocytes to determine whether these factors could directly induce endoderm-derived pancreatic lineage and β-cell-like function. We found that PDX-1 and to a lesser extent other pancreatic transcription factors, could rapidly and specifically activate pancreatic lineage and β-cell-like functional characteristics in ectoderm-derived human keratinocytes. Human keratinocytes transdifferentiated along the β cell lineage produced processed and secreted insulin in response to elevated glucose concentrations. Using irreversible lineage tracing for KRT-5 promoter activity, we present supporting evidence that insulin-positive cells induced by ectopic PDX-1 expression are generated in ectoderm derived keratinocytes.
These findings constitute the first demonstration of human ectoderm cells to endoderm derived pancreatic cells transdifferentiation. The study represents a proof of concept which suggests that transcription factors induced reprogramming is wider and more general developmental process than initially considered. These results expanded the arsenal of adult cells that can be used as a cell source for generating functional endocrine pancreatic cells. Directly reprogramming somatic cells into alternate desired tissues has important implications in developing patient-specific, regenerative medicine approaches.
Expansion of beta cells from the limited number of adult human islet donors is an attractive prospect for increasing cell availability for cell therapy of diabetes. However, attempts at expanding human islet cells in tissue culture result in loss of beta-cell phenotype. Using a lineage-tracing approach we provided evidence for massive proliferation of beta-cell-derived (BCD) cells within these cultures. Expansion involves dedifferentiation resembling epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Epigenetic analyses indicate that key beta-cell genes maintain open chromatin structure in expanded BCD cells, although they are not transcribed. Here we investigated whether BCD cells can be redifferentiated into beta-like cells.
Redifferentiation conditions were screened by following activation of an insulin-DsRed2 reporter gene. Redifferentiated cells were characterized for gene expression, insulin content and secretion assays, and presence of secretory vesicles by electron microscopy. BCD cells were induced to redifferentiate by a combination of soluble factors. The redifferentiated cells expressed beta-cell genes, stored insulin in typical secretory vesicles, and released it in response to glucose. The redifferentiation process involved mesenchymal-epithelial transition, as judged by changes in gene expression. Moreover, inhibition of the EMT effector SLUG (SNAI2) using shRNA resulted in stimulation of redifferentiation. Lineage-traced cells also gave rise at a low rate to cells expressing other islet hormones, suggesting transition of BCD cells through an islet progenitor-like stage during redifferentiation.
These findings demonstrate for the first time that expanded dedifferentiated beta cells can be induced to redifferentiate in culture. The findings suggest that ex-vivo expansion of adult human islet cells is a promising approach for generation of insulin-producing cells for transplantation, as well as basic research, toxicology studies, and drug screening.
Despite intense efforts over the past 30 years, human pancreatic β cell lines have not been available. Here, we describe a robust technology for producing a functional human β cell line using targeted oncogenesis in human fetal tissue. Human fetal pancreatic buds were transduced with a lentiviral vector that expressed SV40LT under the control of the insulin promoter. The transduced buds were then grafted into SCID mice so that they could develop into mature pancreatic tissue. Upon differentiation, the newly formed SV40LT-expressing β cells proliferated and formed insulinomas. The resulting β cells were then transduced with human telomerase reverse transcriptase (hTERT), grafted into other SCID mice, and finally expanded in vitro to generate cell lines. One of these cell lines, EndoC-βH1, expressed many β cell–specific markers without any substantial expression of markers of other pancreatic cell types. The cells secreted insulin when stimulated by glucose or other insulin secretagogues, and cell transplantation reversed chemically induced diabetes in mice. These cells represent a unique tool for large-scale drug discovery and provide a preclinical model for cell replacement therapy in diabetes. This technology could be generalized to generate other human cell lines when the cell type–specific promoter is available.
Activation of the pancreatic lineage in the liver has been suggested as a potential autologous cell replacement therapy for diabetic patients. Transcription factors-induced liver-to-pancreas reprogramming has been demonstrated in numerous species both in vivo and in vitro. However, human-derived liver cells capable of acquiring the alternate pancreatic repertoire have never been characterized. It is yet unknown whether hepatic-like stem cells or rather adult liver cells give rise to insulin-producing cells. Using an in vitro experimental system, we demonstrate that proliferating adherent human liver cells acquire mesenchymal-like characteristics and a considerable level of cellular plasticity. However, using a lineage-tracing approach, we demonstrate that insulin-producing cells are primarily generated in cells enriched for adult hepatic markers that coexpress both albumin and mesenchymal markers. Taken together, our data suggest that adult human hepatic tissue retains a substantial level of developmental plasticity, which could be exploited in regenerative medicine approaches.
Pancreas organogenesis is orchestrated by interactions between the epithelium and the mesenchyme, but these interactions are not completely understood. Here we investigated a role for bone morphogenetic protein (BMP) signaling within the pancreas mesenchyme and found it to be required for the normal development of the mesenchyme as well as for the pancreatic epithelium.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
We analyzed active BMP signaling by immunostaining for phospho-Smad1,5,8 and tested whether pancreas development was affected by BMP inhibition after expression of Noggin and dominant negative BMP receptors in chicken and mouse pancreas.
Endogenous BMP signaling is confined to the mesenchyme in the early pancreas and inhibition of BMP signaling results in severe pancreatic hypoplasia with reduced epithelial branching. Notably, we also observed an excessive endocrine differentiation when mesenchymal BMP signaling is blocked, presumably secondary to defective mesenchyme to epithelium signaling.
We conclude that BMP signaling plays a previously unsuspected role in the mesenchyme, required for normal development of the mesenchyme as well as for the epithelium.
Zinc ions are essential for the formation of hexameric insulin and hormone crystallization. A nonsynonymous single nucleotide polymorphism rs13266634 in the SLC30A8 gene, encoding the secretory granule zinc transporter ZnT8, is associated with type 2 diabetes. We describe the effects of deleting the ZnT8 gene in mice and explore the action of the at-risk allele.
RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODS
Slc30a8 null mice were generated and backcrossed at least twice onto a C57BL/6J background. Glucose and insulin tolerance were measured by intraperitoneal injection or euglycemic clamp, respectively. Insulin secretion, electrophysiology, imaging, and the generation of adenoviruses encoding the low- (W325) or elevated- (R325) risk ZnT8 alleles were undertaken using standard protocols.
ZnT8−/− mice displayed age-, sex-, and diet-dependent abnormalities in glucose tolerance, insulin secretion, and body weight. Islets isolated from null mice had reduced granule zinc content and showed age-dependent changes in granule morphology, with markedly fewer dense cores but more rod-like crystals. Glucose-stimulated insulin secretion, granule fusion, and insulin crystal dissolution, assessed by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy, were unchanged or enhanced in ZnT8−/− islets. Insulin processing was normal. Molecular modeling revealed that residue-325 was located at the interface between ZnT8 monomers. Correspondingly, the R325 variant displayed lower apparent Zn2+ transport activity than W325 ZnT8 by fluorescence-based assay.
ZnT8 is required for normal insulin crystallization and insulin release in vivo but not, remarkably, in vitro. Defects in the former processes in carriers of the R allele may increase type 2 diabetes risks.
Constitutive promoters that ensure sustained and high level gene expression are basic research tools that have a wide range of applications, including studies of human embryology and drug discovery in human embryonic stem cells (hESCs). Numerous cellular/viral promoters that ensure sustained gene expression in various cell types have been identified but systematic comparison of their activities in hESCs is still lacking.
We have quantitatively compared promoter activities of five commonly used constitutive promoters, including the human β-actin promoter (ACTB), cytomegalovirus (CMV), elongation factor-1α, (EF1α), phosphoglycerate kinase (PGK) and ubiquitinC (UbC) in hESCs. Lentiviral gene transfer was used to ensure stable integration of promoter-eGFP constructs into the hESCs genome. Promoter activities were quantitatively compared in long term culture of undifferentiated hESCs and in their differentiated progenies.
The ACTB, EF1α and PGK promoters showed stable activities during long term culture of undifferentiated hESCs. The ACTB promoter was superior by maintaining expression in 75–80% of the cells after 50 days in culture. During embryoid body (EB) differentiation, promoter activities of all five promoters decreased. Although the EF1α promoter was downregulated in approximately 50% of the cells, it was the most stable promoter during differentiation. Gene expression analysis of differentiated eGFP+ and eGFP- cells indicate that promoter activities might be restricted to specific cell lineages, suggesting the need to carefully select optimal promoters for constitutive gene expression in differentiated hESCs.
Facultative endocrine progenitor cell; Endocrine pancreas development; Arx; Pax4; Mouse; Diabetes; Fate specification
ASPM (Abnormal Spindle-like Microcephaly associated) over-expression was recently implicated in the development of malignant gliomas.
To better characterize the involvement of ASPM in gliomas, we investigated the mRNA expression in 175 samples, including 8 WHO Grade II, 75 WHO Grade III and 92 WHO Grade IV tumors. Aspm expression was strongly correlated with tumor grade and increased at recurrence when compared to the initial lesion, whatever the initial grade of the primary tumor. ASPM expression also increased over serial passages in gliomaspheres in vitro and in mouse xenografts in vivo. Lentivirus-mediated shRNA silencing of ASPM resulted in dramatic proliferation arrest and cell death in two different gliomasphere models.
These data suggest that ASPM is involved in the malignant progression of gliomas, possibly through expansion of a cancer stem cell compartment, and is an attractive therapeutic target in glioblastoma multiforme.
In-vitro expansion of functional beta cells from adult human islets is an attractive approach for generating an abundant source of cells for beta-cell replacement therapy of diabetes. Using genetic cell-lineage tracing we have recently shown that beta cells cultured from adult human islets undergo rapid dedifferentiation and proliferate for up to 16 population doublings. These cells have raised interest as potential candidates for redifferentiation into functional insulin-producing cells. Previous work has associated dedifferentiation of cultured epithelial cells with epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and suggested that EMT generates cells with stem cell properties. Here we investigated the occurrence of EMT in these cultures and assessed their stem cell potential.
Using cell-lineage tracing we provide direct evidence for occurrence of EMT in cells originating from beta cells in cultures of adult human islet cells. These cells express multiple mesenchymal markers, as well as markers associated with mesenchymal stem cells (MSC). However, we do not find evidence for the ability of such cells, nor of cells in these cultures derived from a non-beta-cell origin, to significantly differentiate into mesodermal cell types.
These findings constitute the first demonstration based on genetic lineage-tracing of EMT in cultured adult primary human cells, and show that EMT does not induce multipotency in cells derived from human beta cells.
There is increasing interest in developing human cell lines to be used to better understand cell biology, but also for drug screening, toxicology analysis and future cell therapy. In the endocrine pancreatic field, functional human beta cell lines are extremely scarce. On the other hand, rodent insulin producing beta cells have been generated during the past years with great success. Many of such cell lines were produced by using transgenic mice expressing SV40T antigen under the control of the insulin promoter, an approach clearly inadequate in human. Our objective was to develop and validate in rodent an alternative transgenic-like approach, applicable to human tissue, by performing somatic gene transfer into pancreatic progenitors that will develop into beta cells.
Methods and Findings
In this study, rat embryonic pancreases were transduced with recombinant lentiviral vector expressing the SV40T antigen under the control of the insulin promoter. Transduced tissues were next transplanted under the kidney capsule of immuno-incompetent mice allowing insulinoma development from which beta cell lines were established. Gene expression profile, insulin content and glucose dependent secretion, normalization of glycemia upon transplantation into diabetic mice validated the approach to generate beta cell lines.
Somatic gene transfer into pancreatic progenitors represents an alternative strategy to generate functional beta cell lines in rodent. Moreover, this approach can be generalized to derive cells lines from various tissues and most importantly from tissues of human origin.
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.
The rat tyrosine hydroxylase gene promoter contains an E-box/dyad motif and an octameric and heptameric element that may be recognized by classes of transcription factors highly expressed during nervous system development. In a one-hybrid genetic screen, we used these sites as targets to isolate cDNAs encoding new transcription factors present in the brain. We identified ZENON, a novel rat POZ protein that contains two clusters of Kruppel-like zinc fingers and that presents several features of a transcription factor. ZENON is found in nuclei following transient transfection with the cDNA. The N-terminal zinc finger cluster contains a DNA binding domain that interacts with the E box. Cotranfection experiments revealed that ZENON induces tyrosine hydroxylase promoter activity. Unlike other POZ proteins, the ZENON POZ domain is not required for either activation of transcription or self-association. In the embryonic neural tube, ZENON expression is restricted to neurons that have already achieved mitosis and are engaged in late stages of neuronal differentiation (late postmitotic neurons). ZENON neuronal expression persists in the adult brain; therefore, ZENON can be considered a marker of mature neurons. We propose that ZENON is involved in the maintenance of panneuronal features and/or in the survival of mature neurons.