It is well established that gut and pancreas development depend on epithelial-mesenchymal interactions. We show here that several Wnt, Frizzled, and secreted frizzled-related protein (sFRP) encoding mRNAs are present during mouse pancreatic morphogenesis. Wnt5a and 7b mRNA is broadly expressed in foregut mesenchyme starting around embryonic day 10 in mice. Other members expressed are Wnt2b, Wnt5b, and Wnt11. In addition, genes for the Wnt receptors, Frizzled2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 are expressed. To understand potential Wnt functions in pancreas and foregut development in vivo, we analyzed transgenic F0 mouse fetuses expressing Wnt1 and 5a cDNAs under control of the PDX-1 gene promoter. In PDX-Wnt1 fetuses, the foregut region normally comprising the proximal duodenum instead resembles a posterior extension of the stomach, often associated with complete pancreatic and splenic agenesis. Furthermore, the boundary between expression domains of gastric and duodenal markers is shifted in a posterior direction. In PDX-Wnt5a fetuses, several structures derived from the proximal foregut are reduced in size, including the pancreas, spleen, and stomach, without any apparent shift in the stomach to duodenum transition. In these fetuses, overall pancreatic morphology is changed and the pancreatic epithelium is dense and compact, consistent with Wnt5A effects on cell movements and/or attachment. Taken together, these results suggest that Wnt genes participate in epithelial-mesenchymal signaling and may specify region identity in the anterior foregut.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.