Matricellular proteins mediate both tissue morphogenesis and tissue homeostasis in important ways because they modulate cell-matrix and cell-cell interactions. In this study, we found that the matricellular protein osteopontin (Opn) is a novel marker of undifferentiated pancreatic precursors and pancreatic ductal tissues in mice. Our analysis also underscored a specific, dynamic profile of Opn expression in embryonic pancreatic tissues that suggests the participation of this protein's function in processes involving cell migration, cell-cell interactions, or both. Surprisingly, our analysis of Opn-deficient pancreata did not reveal obvious alterations in the morphology or differentiation of these tissues. Therefore, in embryonic pancreatic tissues, it is possible that other proteins act redundantly to Opn or that this protein's function is dispensable for pancreas development. Finally, the maintenance of Opn expression in pancreatic tissues of adults argues for a possible function of this protein in injury and pathologic responses.
Developmental Dynamics 235:1659-1667, 2006. (c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.