Wnt9a deficiency discloses a repressive role of Tcf7l2 on endocrine differentiation in the embryonic pancreas

Sci Rep. 2016 Jan 14;6:19223. doi: 10.1038/srep19223.


Transcriptional and signaling networks establish complex cross-regulatory interactions that drive cellular differentiation during development. Using microarrays we identified the gene encoding the ligand Wnt9a as a candidate target of Neurogenin3, a basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor that functions as a master regulator of pancreatic endocrine differentiation. Here we show that Wnt9a is expressed in the embryonic pancreas and that its deficiency enhances activation of the endocrine transcriptional program and increases the number of endocrine cells at birth. We identify the gene encoding the endocrine transcription factor Nkx2-2 as one of the most upregulated genes in Wnt9a-ablated pancreases and associate its activation to reduced expression of the Wnt effector Tcf7l2. Accordingly, in vitro studies confirm that Tcf7l2 represses activation of Nkx2-2 by Neurogenin3 and inhibits Nkx2-2 expression in differentiated β-cells. Further, we report that Tcf7l2 protein levels decline upon initiation of endocrine differentiation in vivo, disclosing the downregulation of this factor in the developing endocrine compartment. These findings highlight the notion that modulation of signalling cues by lineage-promoting factors is pivotal for controlling differentiation programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Cell Count
  • Endocrine Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Organogenesis* / genetics
  • Pancreas / anatomy & histology
  • Pancreas / cytology
  • Pancreas / embryology*
  • Pancreas / metabolism*
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction
  • Transcription Factor 7-Like 2 Protein / genetics
  • Transcription Factor 7-Like 2 Protein / metabolism*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Wnt Proteins / deficiency*
  • Zebrafish Proteins


  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Neurog3 protein, mouse
  • Nkx2.2 protein
  • Transcription Factor 7-Like 2 Protein
  • Transcription Factors
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Wnt9a protein, mouse
  • Zebrafish Proteins