Secretagogin protects Pdx1 from proteasomal degradation to control a transcriptional program required for β cell specification

Mol Metab. 2018 Aug:14:108-120. doi: 10.1016/j.molmet.2018.05.019. Epub 2018 Jun 5.


Objective: Specification of endocrine cell lineages in the developing pancreas relies on extrinsic signals from non-pancreatic tissues, which initiate a cell-autonomous sequence of transcription factor activation and repression switches. The steps in this pathway share reliance on activity-dependent Ca2+ signals. However, the mechanisms by which phasic Ca2+ surges become converted into a dynamic, cell-state-specific and physiologically meaningful code made up by transcription factors constellations remain essentially unknown.

Methods: We used high-resolution histochemistry to explore the coincident expression of secretagogin and transcription factors driving β cell differentiation. Secretagogin promoter activity was tested in response to genetically manipulating Pax6 and Pax4 expression. Secretagogin null mice were produced with their pancreatic islets morphologically and functionally characterized during fetal development. A proteomic approach was utilized to identify the Ca2+-dependent interaction of secretagogin with subunits of the 26S proteasome and verified in vitro by focusing on Pdx1 retention.

Results: Here, we show that secretagogin, a Ca2+ sensor protein that controls α and β cell turnover in adult, is in fact expressed in endocrine pancreas from the inception of lineage segregation in a Pax4-and Pax6-dependent fashion. By genetically and pharmacologically manipulating secretagogin expression and interactome engagement in vitro, we find secretagogin to gate excitation-driven Ca2+ signals for β cell differentiation and insulin production. Accordingly, secretagogin-/- fetuses retain a non-committed pool of endocrine progenitors that co-express both insulin and glucagon. We identify the Ca2+-dependent interaction of secretagogin with subunits of the 26S proteasome complex to prevent Pdx1 degradation through proteasome inactivation. This coincides with retained Nkx6.1, Pax4 and insulin transcription in prospective β cells.

Conclusions: In sum, secretagogin scales the temporal availability of a Ca2+-dependent transcription factor network to define β cell identity.

Keywords: Ca(2+) signaling; Diabetes; Differentiation; β cell.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor / genetics
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex / metabolism*
  • Proteolysis*
  • Secretagogins / genetics
  • Secretagogins / metabolism*
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism*


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Insulin
  • Nkx6-1 protein, mouse
  • PAX6 Transcription Factor
  • Paired Box Transcription Factors
  • Pax4 protein, mouse
  • Pax6 protein, mouse
  • SCGN protein, mouse
  • Secretagogins
  • Trans-Activators
  • pancreatic and duodenal homeobox 1 protein
  • Proteasome Endopeptidase Complex
  • Calcium