In mice, the Nkx6 genes are crucial to α- and β-cell differentiation, but the molecular mechanisms by which they regulate pancreatic subtype specification remain elusive. Here it is shown that in zebrafish, nkx6.1 and nkx6.2 are co-expressed at early stages in the first pancreatic endocrine progenitors, but that their expression domains gradually segregate into different layers, nkx6.1 being expressed ventrally with respect to the forming islet while nkx6.2 is expressed mainly in β-cells. Knockdown of nkx6.2 or nkx6.1 expression leads to nearly complete loss of α-cells but has no effect on β-, δ-, or ε-cells. In contrast, nkx6.1/nkx6.2 double knockdown leads additionally to a drastic reduction of β-cells. Synergy between the effects of nkx6.1 and nkx6.2 knockdown on both β- and α-cell differentiation suggests that nkx6.1 and nkx6.2 have the same biological activity, the required total nkx6 threshold being higher for α-cell than for β-cell differentiation. Finally, we demonstrate that the nkx6 act on the establishment of the pancreatic endocrine progenitor pool whose size is correlated with the total nkx6 expression level. On the basis of our data, we propose a model in which nkx6.1 and nkx6.2, by allowing the establishment of the endocrine progenitor pool, control α- and β-cell differentiation. © 2010 Elsevier Inc.
Binot, A. C., Manfroid, I., Flasse, L., Winandy, M., Motte, P., Martial, J. A., … Voz, M. L. (2010). Nkx6.1 and nkx6.2 regulate α- and β-cell formation in zebrafish by acting on pancreatic endocrine progenitor cells. Developmental Biology, 340(2), 397–407. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ydbio.2010.01.025