Insulin-positive, Glut2-low cells present within mouse pancreas exhibit lineage plasticity and are enriched within extra-islet endocrine cell clusters
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ABSTRACT: Regeneration of insulin-producing β-cells from resident pancreas progenitors requires an understanding of both progenitor identity and lineage plasticity. One model suggested that a rare β-cell sub-population within islets demonstrated multi-lineage plasticity. We hypothesized that β-cells from young mice (postnatal day 7, P7) exhibit such plasticity and used a model of islet dedifferentiation toward a ductal epithelial-cell phenotype to test this theory. RIPCre;Z/AP+/+ mice were used to lineage trace the fate of β-cells during dedifferentiation culture by a human placental alkaline phosphatase (HPAP) reporter. There was a significant loss of HPAP-expressing β-cells in culture, but remaining HPAP+ cells lost insulin expression while gaining expression of the epithelial duct cell marker cytokeratin-19 (Ck19). Flow cytometry and recovery of β-cell subpopulations from whole pancreas vs. islets suggest that the HPAP+Ck19+ cells had derived from insulin-positive, glucose-transporter-2-low (Ins+Glut2LO) cells, representing 3.5% of all insulin-expressing cells. The majority of these cells were found outside of islets within clusters of <5 β-cells. These insulin+Glut2LO cells demonstrated a greater proliferation rate in vivo and in vitro as compared to insulin+Glut2+ cells at P7, were retained into adulthood, and a subset differentiated into endocrine, ductal, and neural lineages, illustrating substantial plasticity. Results were confirmed using RIPCre;ROSA- eYFP mice. Quantitative PCR data indicated these cells possess an immature β-cell phenotype. These Ins+Glut2LO cells may represent a resident population of cells capable of forming new, functional β-cells, and which may be potentially exploited for regenerative therapies in the future.