Aristaless-related homeobox (Arx) was recently demonstrated to be involved in pancreatic α cell fate specification while simultaneously repressing the β and δ cell lineages. To establish whether Arx is not only necessary, but also sufficient to instruct the α cell fate in endocrine progenitors, we used a gain-of-function approach to generate mice conditionally misexpressing this factor. Mice with forced Arx expression in the embryonic pancreas or in developing islet cells developed a dramatic hyperglycemia and eventually died. Further analysis demonstrated a drastic loss of β and δ cells. Concurrently, a remarkable increase in the number of cells displaying α cell or, strikingly, pancreatic polypeptide (PP) cell features was observed. Notably, the ectopic expression of Arx induced in embryonic or adult β cells led to a loss of the β cell phenotype and a concomitant increase in a number of cells with α or PP cell characteristics. Combining quantitative real-time PCR and lineage-tracing experiments, we demonstrate that, in adult mice, the misexpression of Arx, rather than its overexpression, promotes a conversion of β cells into glucagon- or PP-producing cells in vivo. These results provide important insights into the complex mechanisms underlying proper pancreatic endocrine cell allocation and cell identity acquisition.
Patrick Collombat, Jacob Hecksher-Sørensen, Jens Krull, Joachim Berger, Dietmar Riedel, Pedro L. Herrera, Palle Serup, Ahmed Mansouri
Generation of animals conditionally misexpressing the