Four members of the PAX family, PAX2, PAX4, PAX6 and PAX8 are known to be expressed in the pancreas. Accumulated evidences indicate that several pancreatic expressed PAX genes play a significant role in pancreatic development/functionality and alterations in these genes are involved in the pathogenesis of pancreatic diseases. Areas covered: In this review, we summarize the ongoing research related to pancreatic PAX genes in diabetes mellitus and pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors. We dissect the current knowledge at different levels; from mechanistic studies in cell lines performed to understand the molecular processes controlled by pancreatic PAX genes, to in vivo studies using rodent models that over-express or lack specific PAX genes. Finally, we describe human studies associating variants on pancreatic-expressed PAX genes with pancreatic diseases. Expert opinion: Based on the current literature, we propose that future interventions to treat pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors and diabetes mellitus could be developed via the modulation of PAX4 and/or PAX6 regulated pathways.
Keywords: Diabetes mellitus; PAX genes; PAX2; PAX4; PAX6; PAX8; pancreatic neuroendocrine tumors.