Elucidation of HHEX in pancreatic endoderm differentiation using a human iPSC differentiation model

Sci Rep. 2023 May 29;13(1):8659. doi: 10.1038/s41598-023-35875-1.


For pluripotent stem cell (PSC)-based regenerative therapy against diabetes, the differentiation efficiency to pancreatic lineage cells needs to be improved based on the mechanistic understanding of pancreatic differentiation. Here, we aimed to elucidate the molecular mechanisms underlying pancreatic endoderm differentiation by searching for factors that regulate a crucial pancreatic endoderm marker gene, NKX6.1. Unbiasedly screening an siRNA knockdown library, we identified a candidate transcription factor, HHEX. HHEX knockdown suppressed the expression of another pancreatic endoderm marker gene, PTF1A, as well as NKX6.1, independently of PDX1, a known regulator of NKX6.1 expression. In contrast, the overexpression of HHEX upregulated the expressions of NKX6.1 and PTF1A. RNA-seq analysis showed decreased expressions of several genes related to pancreatic development, such as NKX6.1, PTF1A, ONECUT1 and ONECUT3, in HHEX knockdown pancreatic endoderm. These results suggest that HHEX plays a key role in pancreatic endoderm differentiation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation / genetics
  • Endoderm
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells*
  • Pancreas / metabolism
  • Trans-Activators / genetics
  • Trans-Activators / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Trans-Activators
  • HHEX protein, human
  • Transcription Factors