Quantitative analysis of pancreatic polypeptide cell distribution in the human pancreas

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e55501. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0055501. Epub 2013 Jan 31.


The pancreatic islet is mainly composed of beta-, alpha- and delta-cells with small numbers of pancreatic polypeptide (PP) and epsilon cells. It is known that there is a region in the head of the pancreas that is rich in PP-cells. In the present study, we examined the distribution of PP-cells, and assessed the influence of the PP-cell rich region to quantify the total islet mass. Pancreatic tissues were collected from donors with no history of diabetes or pancreatic diseases (n = 12). A stereological approach with a computer-assisted large-scale analysis of whole pancreatic sections was applied to quantify the entire distribution of endocrine cells within a given section. The initial whole pancreas analysis showed that a PP-cell rich region was largely restricted to the uncinate process with a clear boundary. The distinct distribution of PP-cells includes irregularly shaped clusters composed solely of PP-cells. Furthermore, in the PP-cell rich region, beta- and alpha-cell mass is significantly reduced compared to surrounding PP-cell poor regions. The results suggest that the analysis of the head region should distinguish the PP-cell rich region, which is best examined separately. This study presents an important implication for the regional selection and interpretation of the results.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Glucagon-Secreting Cells / cytology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / cytology
  • Islets of Langerhans
  • Pancreas / anatomy & histology
  • Pancreas / cytology*
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Polypeptide-Secreting Cells / cytology*
  • Pancreatic Polypeptide-Secreting Cells / metabolism