A conserved rule for pancreatic islet organization

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 28;9(10):e110384. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0110384. eCollection 2014.


Morphogenesis, spontaneous formation of organism structure, is essential for life. In the pancreas, endocrine α, β, and δ cells are clustered to form islets of Langerhans, the critical micro-organ for glucose homeostasis. The spatial organization of endocrine cells in islets looks different between species. Based on the three-dimensional positions of individual cells in islets, we computationally inferred the relative attractions between cell types, and found that the attractions between homotypic cells were slightly, but significantly, stronger than the attractions between heterotypic cells commonly in mouse, pig, and human islets. The difference between α-β cell attraction and β-β cell attraction was minimal in human islets, maximizing the plasticity of islet structures. Our result suggests that although the cellular composition and attractions of pancreatic endocrine cells are quantitatively different between species, the physical mechanism of islet morphogenesis may be evolutionarily conserved.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Animals
  • Cell Communication
  • Humans
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology*
  • Islets of Langerhans / embryology*
  • Mice
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Morphogenesis*
  • Swine