Ngn3 is a bHLH transcription factor critical for the specification of endocrine cells in the pancreatic Islets of Langerhans. Previous studies in mouse embryos have reported transient expression of Ngn3 in scattered cells within the developing pancreatic epithelium during midgestation (Schwitzgebel et al.  Development 127:3533-3542). Specifically, these Ngn3-expressing cells have been shown to be progenitor cells fated to give rise to islet endocrine cells (Gradwohl et al.  Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 97:1607-1611). Here, we characterize the expression of Ngn3 transcripts and protein throughout pancreatic development. Interestingly, we identify and define a dramatic and previously unnoticed gap in developmental Ngn3 expression. We show that both Ngn3 transcript and protein expression occur in two distinct temporal waves, the first occurring early from approximately E8.5 to E11.0, and the second initiating at approximately E12.0. Strikingly, this observed biphasic expression correlates with the "first" and "second" transitions, which encompass two distinct waves of embryonic endocrine differentiation. In addition, our studies demonstrate that Ngn3 transcripts are markedly more widespread in the pancreatic epithelium than NGN3 protein, indicating that post-transcriptional regulation is likely to play a critical role during endocrine differentiation.
Copyright (c) 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.