During pancreatic development, neogenesis, and regeneration, stem cells might act as a central player to generate endocrine, acinar, and duct cells. Although these cells are well known as pancreatic stem cells (PSCs), indisputable proof of their existence has not been reported. Identification of phenotypic markers for PSCs leads to their prospective isolation and precise characterization to clear whether stem cells exist in the pancreas. By combining flow cytometry and clonal analysis, we show here that a possible pancreatic stem or progenitor cell candidate that resides in the developing and adult mouse pancreas expresses the receptor for the hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) c-Met, but does not express hematopoietic and vascular endothelial antigens such as CD45, TER119, c-Kit, and Flk-1. These cells formed clonal colonies in vitro and differentiated into multiple pancreatic lineage cells from single cells. Some of them could largely expand with self-renewing cell divisions in culture, and, following cell transplantation, they differentiated into pancreatic endocrine and acinar cells in vivo. Furthermore, they produced cells expressing multiple markers of nonpancreatic organs including liver, stomach, and intestine in vitro. Our data strongly suggest that c-Met/HGF signaling plays an important role in stem/progenitor cell function in both developing and adult pancreas. By using this antigen, PSCs could be isolated prospectively, enabling a detailed investigation of stem cell markers and application toward regenerative therapies for diabetes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Internal Medicine
- Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism