Nestin is an intermediate filament protein expressed by neuroepithelial stem cells and which has been proposed to represent also a marker for putative islet stem cells. The aim of this study was to characterize the cell type(s) expressing nestin in the rat pancreas. By immunohistochemistry, nestin positivity was localized exclusively in mesenchymal cells of normal and regenerating adult pancreas. In the latter condition, the number of nestin-positive cells and the intensity of nestin immunoreactivity were greatly increased. Most nestin-positive cells had the morphology of stellate cells, a type of pericyte associated with blood vessels which has been previously reported to occur in liver and pancreas. In addition, nestin positivity was present in endothelial cells from neocapillaries during pancreas regeneration, and in all blood vessels during morphogenesis in fetal pancreas. Nestin expression was not found in the ductal epithelial cells from which islet cells originate in fetal and regenerating pancreas. In primary pancreatic tissue explants, nestin-positive mesenchymal cells rapidly attached to plastic and proliferated. These cells also expressed desmin, vimentin, and glial fibrillary acidic protein which are known to represent stellate cell markers. In summary, nestin in the pancreas is primarily a marker for reactive stellate cells, or pericytes, and endothelial cells during active angiogenesis.