Aims/hypothesis: The aim of the study was to identify surface bio-markers and corresponding antibody tools that can be used for the imaging and immunoisolation of the pancreatic beta cell and its progenitors. This may prove essential to obtain therapeutic grade human beta cells via stem cell differentiation.
Methods: Using bioinformatics-driven data mining, we generated a gene list encoding putative plasma membrane proteins specifically expressed at distinct stages of the developing pancreas and islet beta cells. In situ hybridisation and immunohistochemistry were used to further prioritise and identify candidates.
Results: In the developing pancreas seizure related 6 homologue like (SEZ6L2), low density lipoprotein receptor-related protein 11 (LRP11), dispatched homologue 2 (Drosophila) (DISP2) and solute carrier family 30 (zinc transporter), member 8 (SLC30A8) were found to be expressed in early islet cells, whereas discoidin domain receptor tyrosine kinase 1 (DDR1) and delta/notch-like EGF repeat containing (DNER) were expressed in early pancreatic progenitors. The expression pattern of DDR1 overlaps with the early pancreatic and duodenal homeobox 1 (PDX1)⁺/NK6 homeobox 1 (NKX6-1)⁺ multipotent progenitor cells from embryonic day 11, whereas DNER expression in part overlaps with neurogenin 3 (NEUROG3)⁺ cells. In the adult pancreas SEZ6L2, LRP11, DISP2 and SLC30A8, but also FXYD domain containing ion transport regulator 2 (FXYD2), tetraspanin 7 (TSPAN7) and transmembrane protein 27 (TMEM27), retain an islet-specific expression, whereas DDR1 is undetectable. In contrast, DNER is expressed at low levels in peripheral mouse and human islet cells. Re-expression of DDR1 and upregulation of DNER is observed in duct-ligated pancreas. Antibodies to DNER and DISP2 have been successfully used in cell sorting.
Conclusions/interpretation: Extracellular epitopes of SEZ6L2, LRP11, DISP2, DDR1 and DNER have been identified as useful tags by applying specific antibodies to visualise pancreatic cell types at specific stages of development. Furthermore, antibodies recognising DISP2 and DNER are suitable for FACS-mediated cell purification.