The endocrine pancreas is an organ of enormous importance, since its dysfunction causes diabetes, one of the most common human diseases in the world. Regulation of pancreatic endocrine cell determination and differentiation requires a unique set of transcription factors, including basic helix-loop-helix and homeodomain-containing proteins. The physiological role of individual transcription factor has been characterized by gene disruption in the mouse. The results indicate that these genes are not only involved in tissue-specific activation of downstream target genes for islet-specific hormones, but also critical for the proper islet morphogenesis. Future elucidation of the genetic relationship of these genes will lead to a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms controlling endocrine pancreas formation and will contribute to the development of new therapeutic approaches to diabetes.
Copyright 2000 National Science Council, ROC and S. Karger AG, Basel