Imaging pancreatic beta-cells in the intact pancreas

Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2006 May;290(5):E1041-7. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.00365.2005. Epub 2005 Dec 20.


We have developed a method to visualize fluorescent protein-labeled beta-cells in the intact pancreas through combined reflection and confocal imaging. This method provides a 3-D view of the beta-cells in situ. Imaging of the pancreas from mouse insulin I promoter (MIP)-green (GFP) and red fluorescent protein (RFP) transgenic mice shows that islets, beta-cell clusters, and single beta-cells are not evenly distributed but are aligned along the large blood vessels. We also observe the solitary beta-cells in both fetal and adult mice and along the pancreatic and common bile ducts. We have imaged the developing endocrine cells in the embryos using neurogenin-3 (Ngn3)-GFP mice crossed with MIP-RFP mice. The dual-color-coded pancreas from embryos (E15.5) shows a large number of green Ngn3-expressing proendocrine cells with a smaller number of red beta-cells. The imaging technique that we have developed, coupled with the transgenic mice in which beta-cells and beta-cell progenitors are labeled with different fluorescent proteins, will be useful for studying pancreatic development and function in normal and disease states.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Newborn
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Bile Ducts / cytology
  • Blood Vessels / cytology
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Insulin / genetics
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence / methods
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics
  • Pancreas / cytology*
  • Pancreas / embryology
  • Pancreatic Ducts / cytology
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism
  • Red Fluorescent Protein


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Cyan Fluorescent Protein
  • Insulin
  • Luminescent Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurog3 protein, mouse
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins