In vitro transdifferentiation of adult pancreatic acinar cells into insulin-expressing cells

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2004 Apr 16;316(4):1094-100. doi: 10.1016/j.bbrc.2004.02.153.


Despite a recent breakthrough in human islet transplantation for treating diabetes mellitus, the limited availability of insulin-producing tissue is still a major obstacle. Here, we studied whether adult pancreatic acinar cells have the potential to transdifferentiate into islet or beta cells. Pancreatic acini were isolated from 7- to 8-weeks-old male Sprague-Dawley rats and cultured in suspension. Within 1 week, most of the acinar cells lost amylase expression and converted to cells with a duct cell phenotype. Insulin-positive cells were also observed, mainly at the periphery of the acini-derived spheroids. Insulin gene and protein expression was increased. Presence of a few insulin-positive cells coexpressing cytokeratins suggests that a spontaneous acinar to ductal cell transdifferentiation process was further going on towards beta cells. This study provides the first evidence that adult pancreatic acinar cells could be differentiated into insulin-expressing cells in vitro.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Culture Techniques / methods*
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology*
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Insulin / metabolism*
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins / metabolism*
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / metabolism*
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratin-7
  • Keratins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tissue Engineering / methods
  • alpha-Amylases / metabolism*


  • Insulin
  • Intermediate Filament Proteins
  • KRT20 protein, human
  • KRT7 protein, human
  • Keratin-20
  • Keratin-7
  • Krt20 protein, rat
  • Keratins
  • alpha-Amylases