The transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) cytokines are important regulators of growth and differentiation in multiple mammalian organ systems. Recent studies suggest that they may play a significant role in the regulation of pancreatic organogenesis. The authors proposed to examine the ontogeny of expression of the TGF-beta cytokine isoforms (TGF-beta1, beta2, and beta3), as well as that of the type II TGF-beta receptor (TbetaRII), in the pancreas. We hypothesized that their patterns of expression might help to clarify the manner in which they influence the development of this organ.Embryos from pregnant CD-1 mice were harvested on gestational days 12.5, 15.5, and 18.5. Microdissection was performed on the embryos to isolate their pancreases. The pancreases were fixed, frozen embedded, and sectioned with a cryostat. Immunohistochemistrywas performed using polyclonal antibodies to TGF-beta1, beta2, and beta3, and TbetaRII.The patterns of expression of TGF-beta1, beta2, and beta3 were similar throughout gestation. They were all present, though weakly, early in the development of the pancreas, in the E12.5 epithelial cells. Their expression persisted and became localized to the acinar cells later in gestation. TbetaRII staining was present in both the E12.5 epithelial cells and the surrounding mesenchyme. As the pancreas developed, TbetaRII became strongly expressed in the ductal epithelial cells with only minimal staining in the acinar and endocrine cells.TGF-betas may play a role in regulating pancreatic organogenesis. Our data suggest that they may be required for the normal development of acini. As in other cell systems, TGF-beta1 may act as a suppressor of pancreatic cellular growth and differentiation. The localization of TbetaRII to the mature ductal epithelium may indicate a need for ongoing regulation of growth and differentiation in the pancreatic ducts beyond the fetal period.
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