The pancreas is an abdominal gland that serves 2 vital purposes: assist food processing by secreting digestive enzymes and regulate blood glucose levels by releasing endocrine hormones. During embryonic development, this gland originates from epithelial buds located on opposite sites of the foregut endoderm. Pancreatic cell specification and maturation are coordinated by a complex interplay of extrinsic and intrinsic signaling events. In the recent years, the canonical Wnt/β-catenin pathway has emerged as an important player of pancreas organogenesis, regulating pancreatic epithelium specification, compartmentalization and expansion. Importantly, it has been suggested to regulate proliferation, survival and function of adult pancreatic cells, including insulin-secreting β-cells. This review summarizes recent work on the role of Wnt/β-catenin signaling in pancreas biology from early development to adulthood, emphasizing on its relevance for the development of new therapies for pancreatic diseases.
Keywords: Wnt pathway; diabetes; embryonic development; pancreas; β-catenin; β-cells.