AIMS/HYPOTHESIS - We sought to determine the mRNA transcriptome of all major human pancreatic endocrine and exocrine cell subtypes, including human alpha, beta, duct and acinar cells. In addition, we identified the cell type-specific distribution of transcription factors, signalling ligands and their receptors.
METHODS - Islet samples from healthy human donors were enzymatically dispersed to single cells and labelled with cell type-specific surface-reactive antibodies. Live endocrine and exocrine cell subpopulations were isolated by FACS and gene expression analyses were performed using microarray analysis and quantitative RT-PCR. Computational tools were used to evaluate receptor-ligand representation in these populations.
RESULTS - Analysis of the transcriptomes of alpha, beta, large duct, small duct and acinar cells revealed previously unrecognised gene expression patterns in these cell types, including transcriptional regulators HOPX and HDAC9 in the human beta cell population. The abundance of some regulatory proteins was different from that reported in mouse tissue. For example, v-maf musculoaponeurotic fibrosarcoma oncogene homologue B (avian) (MAFB) was detected at equal levels in adult human alpha and beta cells, but is absent from adult mouse beta cells. Analysis of ligand-receptor interactions suggested that EPH receptor-ephrin communication between exocrine and endocrine cells contributes to pancreatic function.
CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION - This is the first comprehensive analysis of the transcriptomes of human exocrine and endocrine pancreatic cell types-including beta cells-and provides a useful resource for diabetes research. In addition, paracrine signalling pathways within the pancreas are shown. These results will help guide efforts to specify human beta cell fate by embryonic stem cell or induced pluripotent stem cell differentiation or genetic reprogramming.
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