Pancreas agenesis mutations disrupt a lead enhancer controlling a developmental enhancer cluster

Dev Cell. 2022 Aug 22;57(16):1922-1936.e9. doi: 10.1016/j.devcel.2022.07.014.


Sequence variants in cis-acting enhancers are important for polygenic disease, but their role in Mendelian disease is poorly understood. Redundancy between enhancers that regulate the same gene is thought to mitigate the pathogenic impact of enhancer mutations. Recent findings, however, have shown that loss-of-function mutations in a single enhancer near PTF1A cause pancreas agenesis and neonatal diabetes. Using mouse and human genetic models, we show that this enhancer activates an entire PTF1A enhancer cluster in early pancreatic multipotent progenitors. This leading role, therefore, precludes functional redundancy. We further demonstrate that transient expression of PTF1A in multipotent progenitors sets in motion an epigenetic cascade that is required for duct and endocrine differentiation. These findings shed insights into the genome regulatory mechanisms that drive pancreas differentiation. Furthermore, they reveal an enhancer that acts as a regulatory master key and is thus vulnerable to pathogenic loss-of-function mutations.

Keywords: Mendelian disease; NEUROG3; PTF1A; diabetes mellitus; endocrine differentiation; enhancers; non-coding mutations; pancreas development; stem cell differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / metabolism
  • Enhancer Elements, Genetic / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Mice
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Regulatory Sequences, Nucleic Acid
  • Transcription Factors* / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors