Activin regulates alpha and beta cell fate-determining gene expression

The transcription factor Arx is required to form pancreatic islet alpha cells while the factor Pax4 is required to specify beta cells.  Reducing Arx expression in alpha cells is sufficient to turn them into beta cells.Fairbanks scientists have collaborated on  new research published in Endocrinology showing that activin directly suppressed Arx and increased Pax4 expression, consistent with our hypothesis that increased activin signaling promotes alpha to beta cell transdifferentiation.

Since FSTL3 knockout mice have increased activin signaling, these new results suggest that the enhanced beta cell formation in FSTL3 knockout mice could be due to activin-assisted transdifferentiation from alpha cells.  More research is needed to determine if this process occurs naturally and amenable to intervention as a basis for developing novel diabetes treatments.

View/download article