The development and function of epithelia depend on the establishment and maintenance of cell-cell adhesion and intercellular junctions, which operate as mechanosensor hubs for the transduction of biochemical signals regulating cell proliferation, differentiation, survival, and regeneration. Here, we show that αE-catenin, a key component of adherens junctions, functions as a positive regulator of pancreatic islet cell lineage differentiation by repressing the sonic hedgehog pathway (SHH). Thus, deletion of αE-catenin in multipotent pancreatic progenitors resulted in (1) loss of adherens junctions, (2) constitutive activation of SHH, (3) decrease in islet cell lineage differentiation, and (4) accumulation of immature Sox9+ progenitors. Pharmacological blockade of SHH signaling in pancreatic organ cultures and in vivo rescued this defect, allowing αE-catenin-null Sox9+ pancreatic progenitors to differentiate into endocrine cells. The results uncover crucial functions of αE-catenin in pancreatic islet development and harbor significant implications for the design of β cell replacement and regeneration therapies in diabetes.
Keywords: Pdx1; Sox9; adherens junctions; cell polarity; islet progenitors; pancreas development; sonic hedgehog; α-catenin; β cells.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.