Immunohistochemical localization of betacellulin, a new member of the EGF family, in normal human pancreas and islet tumor cells

Endocr J. 1999 Dec;46(6):755-64. doi: 10.1507/endocrj.46.755.


Betacellulin (BTC) purified from mouse beta cell tumor (betaTC-3) is a new member of the epidermal growth factor (EGF) family which can bind receptor tyrosine kinase, EGF receptor (erbB1) and erbB4. It has been demonstrated that proBTC mRNA was abundantly expressed in human pancreas tissue, and that BTC converted amylase-secreting rat acinar cell line (AR42J) into insulin-secreting cells, suggesting that BTC might be important for the growth and/or differentiation of islet cells. However, the cell type producing BTC in the pancreas has not been clarified. In this study, we examined the localization of BTC in human pancreas and islet cell tumors. Immunohistochemistry using specific antibodies to human BTC revealed that this protein was produced in alpha cells and duct cells, and probably in beta cells in normal adult pancreas. Furthermore, strong immunoreactivity to BTC was detected in primitive duct cells of the fetal pancreas, and both insulinoma and glucagonoma cells also showed positive immunoreactivity to BTC. EGF receptor (erbB1) and erbB4 were expressed mainly in islet and duct cells, and duct cells, respectively. These results demonstrate the localization of BTC and its receptors, and suggest that BTC may be one of the factors that have physiologically important roles such as growth and differentiation of islet cells in the human pancreas.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / metabolism*
  • Adenoma, Islet Cell / pathology
  • Adult
  • Betacellulin
  • ErbB Receptors / metabolism
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Growth Substances / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins*
  • Pancreas / embryology
  • Pancreas / metabolism*
  • Receptor, ErbB-4
  • Reference Values
  • Tissue Distribution


  • BTC protein, human
  • Betacellulin
  • Btc protein, mouse
  • Btc protein, rat
  • Growth Substances
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • ERBB4 protein, human
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Erbb4 protein, mouse
  • Erbb4 protein, rat
  • Receptor, ErbB-4