Exocrine pancreas trans-differentiation to hepatocytes--a physiological response to elevated glucocorticoid in vivo

J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2009 Aug;116(1-2):76-85. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2009.05.002. Epub 2009 May 13.


Damage or ectopic expression of some growth factors can lead to the appearance of hepatocyte-like cells within the pancreas. Since glucocorticoids promote liver hepatocyte phenotype in vitro, the effect of glucocorticoid on pancreatic differentiation in vivo was examined. Treatment of rats with glucocorticoid for 25 days at levels that significantly inhibited weight gain resulted in the appearance of acinar cells expressing cytokeratin 7 and hepatocyte markers glutamine synthetase, carbamoyl phosphate synthetase and cytochrome P450 2E (the nomenclature employed is that given at http://drnelson.utmem.edu/CytochromeP450.html). Using a plastic pancreatic acinar cell line, this response was shown to be associated with changes in the regulation of WNT signalling-related gene expression and a repression of WNT signalling activity. These data suggest that a pathological response of the pancreas in vivo to elevated glucocorticoid is a differentiation of exocrine pancreatic cells or pancreatic progenitor cells to an hepatocyte-like phenotype.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Transdifferentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / metabolism*
  • Hepatocytes / cytology*
  • Hepatocytes / metabolism
  • Male
  • Pancreas, Exocrine / cytology*
  • Pancreas, Exocrine / metabolism
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Transfection


  • Glucocorticoids