Alpha cell-specific Men1 ablation triggers the transdifferentiation of glucagon-expressing cells and insulinoma development

Gastroenterology. 2010 May;138(5):1954-65. doi: 10.1053/j.gastro.2010.01.046. Epub 2010 Feb 2.


Background & aims: The tumor suppressor menin is recognized as a key regulator of pancreatic islet development, proliferation, and beta-cell function, whereas its role in alpha cells remains poorly understood. The purpose of the current study was to address this issue in relation to islet tumor histogenesis.

Methods: We generated alpha cell-specific Men1 mutant mice with Cre/loxP technology and carried out analyses of pancreatic lesions developed in the mutant mice during aging.

Results: We showed that, despite the alpha-cell specificity of the GluCre transgene, both glucagonomas and a large amount of insulinomas developed in mutant mice older than 6 months, accompanied by mixed islet tumors. Interestingly, the cells sharing characteristics of both alpha and beta cells were identified shortly after the appearance of menin-deficient alpha cells but well before the tumor onset. Using a genetic cell lineage tracing analysis, we demonstrated that insulinoma cells were directly derived from transdifferentiating glucagon-expressing cells. Furthermore, our data indicated that the expression of Pdx1, MafA, Pax4, and Ngn3 did not seem to be required for the initiation of this transdifferentiation.

Conclusions: Our work shows cell transdifferentiation as a novel mechanism involved in islet tumor development and provides evidence showing that menin regulates the plasticity of differentiated pancreatic alpha cells in vivo, shedding new light on the mechanisms of islet tumorigenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / pathology
  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / metabolism
  • Cell Fusion
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cell Transdifferentiation*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / metabolism*
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / pathology
  • Gene Deletion
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Genotype
  • Glucagon / metabolism*
  • Glucagon-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Glucagon-Secreting Cells / pathology
  • Glucagonoma / genetics
  • Glucagonoma / metabolism*
  • Glucagonoma / pathology
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / pathology
  • Insulinoma / genetics
  • Insulinoma / metabolism*
  • Insulinoma / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Phenotype
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / deficiency*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Biomarkers
  • Insulin
  • Men1 protein, mouse
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Glucagon