Paracrine Secretion of Transforming Growth Factor β by Ductal Cells Promotes Acinar-to-Ductal Metaplasia in Cultured Human Exocrine Pancreas Tissues

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ObjectiveWe aimed to evaluate the contribution of acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) to the accumulation of cells with a ductal phenotype in cultured human exocrine pancreatic tissues and reveal the underlying mechanism.MethodsWe sorted and cultured viable cell populations in human exocrine pancreatic tissues with a flow cytometry–based lineage tracing method to evaluate possible mechanisms of ADM. Cell surface markers, gene expression pattern, and sphere formation assay were used to examine ADM.ResultsA large proportion of acinar cells gained CD133 expression during the 2-dimensional culture and showed down-regulation of acinar markers and up-regulation of ductal markers, assuming an ADM phenotype. In a serum-free culture condition, ADM induction was mainly dependent on transforming growth factor β (TGF-β) secreted from cultured ductal cells. Human acinar cells when cultured alone for a week in a serum-free condition do not undergo ADM. However, serum may contain other factors besides TGF-β to induce ADM in human acinar cells. In addition, we found that TGF-β cannot induce ADM of murine acinar cells.ConclusionsDuctal cells are the major source of TGF-β that induces ADM in cultured human exocrine pancreatic tissues. This culture system might be a useful model to investigate the mechanism of ADM in human cells.

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