We 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.Methods
We 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.Results
A 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.Conclusions
Ductal 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.