Dual origin, development, and fate of bovine pancreatic islets

Claudia Merkwitz, Paul Lochhead, Jan Böttger, Madlen Matz-Soja, Michiharu Sakurai, Rolf Gebhardt, Albert M Ricken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Endocrine cells are evident at an early stage in bovine pancreatic development when the pancreas still consists of primitive epithelial cords. At this stage, the endocrine cells are interspersed between the precursor cells destined to form the ductulo-acinar trees of later exocrine lobules. We here demonstrate that, in bovine fetuses of crown rump length = 11 cm, the endocrine cells become increasingly segregated from the developing exocrine pancreas by assembly into two units that differ in histogenesis, architecture, and fate. Small numbers of 'perilobular giant islets' are distinguishable from larger numbers of 'intralobular small islets'. The two types of islets arise in parallel from the ends of the ductal tree. Aside from differences in number, location, and size, the giant and small islets differ in cellular composition (predominantly insulin-synthesising cells vs. mixtures of endocrine cells), morphology (epithelial trabeculae with gyriform and rosette-like appearance vs. compact circular arrangements of endocrine cells), and in their relationships to intrapancreatic ganglia and nerves. A further difference becomes apparent during the antenatal period; while the 'interlobular small islets' persist in the pancreata of calves and adult cattle, the perilobular giant islets are subject to regression, characterised by involution of the parenchyma, extensive haemorrhage, leukocyte infiltration (myeloid and T-cells) and progressive fibrotic replacement. In conclusion, epithelial precursor cells of the ductolo-acinar tree may give rise to populations of pancreatic islets with different histomorphology, cellular composition and fates. This should be taken into account when using these cells for the generation of pancreatic islets for transplantation therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-371
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Anatomy
Issue number3
Early online date21 Nov 2012
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2013


  • cattle
  • endocrine islets
  • fetal pancreas
  • fetus
  • islet heterogeneity
  • islet ontogeny


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