The ductal origin of structural and functional heterogeneity between pancreatic islets

Claudia Merkwitz, Orest W Blaschuk, Angela Schulz, Paul Lochhead, Jaroslawna Meister, Angela Ehrlich, Albert M Ricken

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20 Citations (Scopus)


Islets form in the pancreas after the first endocrine cells have arisen as either single cells or small cell clusters in the epithelial cords. These cords constitute the developing pancreas in one of its earliest recognizable stages. Islet formation begins at the time the cords transform into a branching ductal system, continues while the ductal system expands, and finally stops before the exocrine tissue of ducts and acini reaches its final expansion. Thus, islets continuously arise from founder cells located in the branching and ramifying ducts. Islets arising from proximal duct cells locate between the exocrine lobules, develop strong autonomic and sensory innervations, and pass their blood to efferent veins (insulo-venous efferent system). Islets arising from cells of more distal ducts locate within the exocrine lobules, respond to nerve impulses ending at neighbouring blood vessels, and pass their blood to the surrounding acini (insulo-acinar portal system). Consequently, the section of the ductal system from which an islet arises determines to a large extent its future neighbouring tissue, architecture, properties, and functions. We note that islets interlobular in position are frequently found in rodents (rats and mice), whereas intralobularly-located, peripheral duct islets prevail in humans and cattle. Also, we expound on bovine foetal Laguesse islets as a prominent foetal type of type 1 interlobular neuro-insular complexes, similar to neuro-insular associations frequently found in rodents. Finally, we consider the probable physiological and pathophysiological implications of the different islet positions within and between species.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-140
Number of pages38
JournalProgress in histochemistry and cytochemistry
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2013

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