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The transcription factors pancreatic and duodenal homeobox 1 (Pdx1) and onecut1 (Oc1) are coexpressed in multipotent pancreatic progenitors (MPCs), but their expression patterns diverge in hormone-expressing cells, with Oc1 expression being extinguished in the endocrine lineage and Pdx1 being maintained at high levels in β-cells. We previously demonstrated that cooperative function of these two factors in MPCs is necessary for proper specification and differentiation of pancreatic endocrine cells. In those studies, we observed a persistent decrease in expression of the β-cell maturity factor MafA. We therefore hypothesized that Pdx1 and Oc1 cooperativity in MPCs impacts postnatal β-cell maturation and function. Here our model of Pdx1-Oc1 double heterozygosity was used to investigate the impact of haploinsufficiency for both of these factors on postnatal β-cell maturation, function, and adaptability. Examining mice at postnatal day (P) 14, we observed alterations in pancreatic insulin content in both Pdx1 heterozygotes and double heterozygotes. Gene expression analysis at this age revealed significantly decreased expression of many genes important for glucose-stimulated insulin secretion (e.g., Glut2, Pcsk1/2, Abcc8) exclusively in double heterozygotes. Analysis of P14 islets revealed an increase in the number of mixed islets in double heterozygotes. We predicted that double-heterozygous β-cells would have an impaired ability to respond to stress. Indeed, we observed that β-cell proliferation fails to increase in double heterozygotes in response to either high-fat diet or placental lactogen. We thus report here the importance of cooperation between regulatory factors early in development for postnatal islet maturation and adaptability.
Pdx1 and Oc1 are co-expressed in multipotent pancreatic progenitors and regulate the pro-endocrine gene Neurog3. Their expression diverges in later organogenesis, with Oc1 absent from hormone+ cells and Pdx1 maintained in mature β cells. In a classical genetic test for cooperative functional interactions, we derived mice with combined Pdx1 and Oc1 heterozygosity. Endocrine development in double-heterozygous pancreata was normal at embryonic day (E)13.5, but defects in specification and differentiation were apparent at E15.5, the height of the second wave of differentiation. Pancreata from double heterozygotes showed alterations in the expression of genes crucial for β-cell development and function, decreased numbers and altered allocation of Neurog3-expressing endocrine progenitors, and defective endocrine differentiation. Defects in islet gene expression and β-cell function persisted in double heterozygous neonates. These results suggest that Oc1 and Pdx1 cooperate prior to their divergence, in pancreatic progenitors, to allow for proper differentiation and functional maturation of β cells.
Published by Elsevier Inc.
Normal pancreatic epithelium progresses through various stages of pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasms (PanINs) in the development of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Transcriptional regulation of this progression is poorly understood. In mouse, the hepatic nuclear factor 6 (Hnf6) transcription factor is expressed in ductal cells and at lower levels in acinar cells of the adult pancreas, but not in mature endocrine cells. Hnf6 is critical for terminal differentiation of the ductal epithelium during embryonic development and for pancreatic endocrine cell specification. We previously showed that, in mice, loss of Hnf6 from the pancreatic epithelium during organogenesis results in increased duct proliferation and altered duct architecture, increased periductal fibrosis and acinar-to-ductal metaplasia. Here we show that decreased expression of HNF6 is strongly correlated with increased severity of PanIN lesions in samples of human pancreata and is absent from >90% of PDAC. Mouse models in which cancer progression can be analyzed from the earliest stages that are seldom accessible in humans support a role for Hnf6 loss in progression from early- to late-stage PanIN and PDAC. In addition, gene expression analyses of human pancreatic cancer reveal decreased expression of HNF6 and its direct and indirect target genes compared with normal tissue and upregulation of genes that act in opposition to HNF6 and its targets. The negative correlation between HNF6 expression and pancreatic cancer progression suggests that HNF6 maintains pancreatic epithelial homeostasis in humans, and that its loss contributes to the progression from PanIN to ductal adenocarcinoma. Insight on the role of HNF6 in pancreatic cancer development could lead to its use as a biomarker for early detection and prognosis.
The potential for intrahepatic bile duct (IHBD) regeneration in patients with bile duct insufficiency diseases is poorly understood. Notch signaling and Hnf6 have each been shown to be important for the morphogenesis of IHBDs in mice. One congenital pediatric liver disease characterized by reduced numbers of IHBDs, Alagille syndrome, is associated with mutations in Notch signaling components. Therefore, we investigated whether liver cell plasticity could contribute to IHBD regeneration in mice with disruptions in Notch signaling and Hnf6. We studied a mouse model of bile duct insufficiency with liver epithelial cell-specific deficiencies in Hnf6 and Rbpj, a mediator of canonical Notch signaling. Albumin-Cre Hnf6(flox/flox)Rbpj(flox/flox) mice initially developed no peripheral bile ducts. The evolving postnatal liver phenotype was analyzed using IHBD resin casting, immunostaining, and serum chemistry. With age, Albumin-Cre Hnf6(flox/flox)Rbpj(flox/flox) mice mounted a ductular reaction extending through the hepatic tissue and then regenerated communicating peripheral IHBD branches. Rbpj and Hnf6 were determined to remain absent from biliary epithelial cells constituting the ductular reaction and the regenerated peripheral IHBDs. We report the expression of Sox9, a marker of biliary epithelial cells, in cells expressing hepatocyte markers. Tissue analysis indicates that reactive ductules did not arise directly from preexisting hilar IHBDs. We conclude that liver cell plasticity is competent for regeneration of IHBDs independent of Notch signaling via Rbpj and Hnf6.
Copyright © 2014 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Horizontal cells are interneurons that synapse with photoreceptors in the outer retina. Their genesis during development is subject to regulation by transcription factors in a hierarchical manner. Previously, we showed that Onecut 1 (Oc1), an atypical homeodomain transcription factor, is expressed in developing horizontal cells (HCs) and retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in the mouse retina. Herein, by knocking out Oc1 specifically in the developing retina, we show that the majority (∼80%) of HCs fail to form during early retinal development, implying that Oc1 is essential for HC genesis. However, no other retinal cell types, including RGCs, were affected in the Oc1 knock-out. Analysis of the genetic relationship between Oc1 and other transcription factor genes required for HC development revealed that Oc1 functions downstream of FoxN4, in parallel with Ptf1a, but upstream of Lim1 and Prox1. By in utero electroporation, we found that Oc1 and Ptf1a together are not only essential, but also sufficient for determination of HC fate. In addition, the synaptic connections in the outer plexiform layer are defective in Oc1-null mice, and photoreceptors undergo age-dependent degeneration, indicating that HCs are not only an integral part of the retinal circuitry, but also are essential for the survival of photoreceptors. In sum, these results demonstrate that Oc1 is a critical determinant of HC fate, and reveal that HCs are essential for photoreceptor viability, retinal integrity, and normal visual function.
OBJECTIVE - Growing evidence suggests that a phenotypic switch converting pancreatic acinar cells to duct-like cells can lead to pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia 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). The transcriptional regulators required to initiate ADM are unknown, but need to be identified to characterise the regulatory networks that drive ADM. In this study, 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 was investigated.
DESIGN - Expression of HNF6 and Sox9 was measured by immunostaining in normal and diseased human pancreas. The function of the factors was tested in cultured cells and in mouse models of ADM by a combination of gain and loss of function experiments.
RESULTS - Expression of HNF6 and Sox9 was ectopically induced in acinar cells in human ADM as well as in mouse models of ADM. HNF6 and, to a lesser extent, Sox9 were 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.
CONCLUSIONS - HNF6 and Sox9 are new biomarkers of ADM and constitute candidate targets for preventive treatment in cases when ADM may lead to cancer. This work also shows that ectopic activation of transcription factors may underlie metaplastic processes occurring in other organs.
The spinal cord contains a diverse array of physiologically distinct interneuron cell types that subserve specialized roles in somatosensory perception and motor control. The mechanisms that generate these specialized interneuronal cell types from multipotential spinal progenitors are not known. In this study, we describe a temporally regulated transcriptional program that controls the differentiation of Renshaw cells (RCs), an anatomically and functionally discrete spinal interneuron subtype. We show that the selective activation of the Onecut transcription factors Oc1 and Oc2 during the first wave of V1 interneuron neurogenesis is a key step in the RC differentiation program. The development of RCs is additionally dependent on the forkhead transcription factor Foxd3, which is more broadly expressed in postmitotic V1 interneurons. Our demonstration that RCs are born, and activate Oc1 and Oc2 expression, in a narrow temporal window leads us to posit that neuronal diversity in the developing spinal cord is established by the composite actions of early spatial and temporal determinants.
UNLABELLED - Notch signaling and hepatocyte nuclear factor-6 (HNF-6) are two genetic factors known to affect lineage commitment in the bipotential hepatoblast progenitor cell (BHPC) population. A genetic interaction involving Notch signaling and HNF-6 in mice has been inferred through separate experiments showing that both affect BHPC specification and bile duct morphogenesis. To define the genetic interaction between HNF-6 and Notch signaling in an in vivo mouse model, we examined the effects of BHPC-specific loss of HNF-6 alone and within the background of BHPC-specific loss of recombination signal binding protein immunoglobulin kappa J (RBP-J), the common DNA-binding partner of all Notch receptors. Isolated loss of HNF-6 in this mouse model fails to demonstrate a phenotypic variance in bile duct development compared to control. However, when HNF-6 loss is combined with RBP-J loss, a phenotype consisting of cholestasis, hepatic necrosis, and fibrosis is observed that is more severe than the phenotype seen with Notch signaling loss alone. This phenotype is associated with significant intrahepatic biliary system abnormalities, including an early decrease in biliary epithelial cells, evolving to ductular proliferation and a decrease in the density of communicating peripheral bile duct branches. In this in vivo model, simultaneous loss of both HNF-6 and RBP-J results in down-regulation of both HNF-1β and Sox9 (sex determining region Y-related HMG box transcription factor 9).
CONCLUSION - HNF-6 and Notch signaling interact in vivo to control expression of downstream mediators essential to the normal development of the intrahepatic biliary system. This study provides a model to investigate genetic interactions of factors important to intrahepatic bile duct development and their effect on cholestatic liver disease phenotypes.
Copyright © 2011 American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases.
Within the developing pancreas Hepatic Nuclear Factor 6 (HNF6) directly activates the pro-endocrine transcription factor, Ngn3. HNF6 and Ngn3 are each essential for endocrine differentiation and HNF6 is also required for embryonic duct development. Most HNF6(-/-) animals die as neonates, making it difficult to study later aspects of HNF6 function. Here, we describe, using conditional gene inactivation, that HNF6 has specific functions at different developmental stages in different pancreatic lineages. Loss of HNF6 from Ngn3-expressing cells (HNF6(Delta endo)) resulted in fewer multipotent progenitor cells entering the endocrine lineage, but had no effect on beta cell terminal differentiation. Early, pancreas-wide HNF6 inactivation (HNF6(Delta panc)) resulted in endocrine and ductal defects similar to those described for HNF6 global inactivation. However, all HNF6(Delta panc) animals survived to adulthood. HNF6(Delta panc) pancreata displayed increased ductal cell proliferation and metaplasia, as well as characteristics of pancreatitis, including up-regulation of CTGF, MMP7, and p8/Nupr1. Pancreatitis was most likely caused by defects in ductal primary cilia. In addition, expression of Prox1, a known regulator of pancreas development, was decreased in HNF6(Delta panc) pancreata. These data confirm that HNF6 has both early and late functions in the developing pancreas and is essential for maintenance of Ngn3 expression and proper pancreatic duct morphology.