Netrin-1 expression in fetal and regenerating rat pancreas and its effect on the migration of human pancreatic duct and porcine islet precursor cells

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Aims/hypothesisWe investigated the expression and function of netrin-1, a diffusible laminin-like protein known to regulate neuronal-cell migration in the pancreas. We questioned whether this factor regulates migration of pancreatic epithelial cells and whether this could be involved in islet neogenesis.MethodsWe studied fetal and adult rat pancreas wherein duct ligation induced islet neogenesis. Netrin-1 expression was analysed by RT-PCR, western blot and immunohistochemistry. In vitro cell migration was measured with a human pancreatic duct cell line (CAPAN-2) and with fetal porcine islet cells. We also studied the expression of two netrin-receptors, neogenin and deleted in colorectal cancer.ResultsWe found a transient expression of netrin-1 mRNA and protein in fetal pancreas from E15 to E18, and in adult pancreas after duct ligation. In normal adult pancreas there was very little netrin-1 expression. Netrin-1 expression was observed both in endocrine and exocrine cells. At the immunohistochemical level, it was expressed by islet cells during tissue regeneration. We could show that netrin-1 increases the migration of fetal islet cells and of a ductal cell line, mainly via a chemokinetic effect. From the two well-established netrin receptors, DCC and neogenin, we only found neogenin to be expressed in the pancreas. Neogenin expression coincided with the period of netrin-1 up-regulation.Conclusion/interpretationNetrin-1 is involved in pancreatic morphogenesis and tissue remodelling and plays a role in the regulation of duct-cell and fetal-islet cell migration. This can be of importance in islet regeneration, where migration of islet precursors takes place.

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