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Keywords:

  • connexin 26;
  • connexin 32;
  • connexin 36;
  • pancreatic cells;
  • development

Abstract

To identify when during fetal development connexins (Cxs) 26 (Cx26) 32 (Cx32), and 36 (Cx36) begin to be expressed, as well as to characterize their spatial distribution, real time polymerase chain reaction and immunolabeling studies were performed. Total RNA from mouse pancreases at 13 and 18 days postcoitum (dpc) and 3 days postpartum (dpp) was analyzed. In addition, pancreatic sections of mouse at 13, 14, 15, 16, 18 dpc and 3 dpp and of rat at term were double labeled with either anti-insulin or anti-α-amylase and anti-Cx26 or -Cx32 or -Cx36 antibodies and studied with confocal microscopy. From day 13 dpc, Cxs 26, 32, and 36 transcripts were identified and their levels increased with age. At 13–14 dpc, Cxs 26 and 32 were localized in few acinar cells, whereas Cx36 was distributed in small beta cell clumps. From day 14 dpc onwards, the number of labeled cells and relative immunofluorescent reactivity of all three Cxs at junctional membranes of the respective cell types increased. Cxs 26 and 32 colocalized in fetal acinar cells. In rat pancreas at term, a similar connexin distribution was found. Relative Cxs levels evaluated by immunoblotting also increased (two-fold) in pancreas homogenates from day 18 dpc to 3 dpp. The early cell specific, wide distribution, and age dependent expression of Cxs 26, 32, and 36 during fetal pancreas ontogeny suggests their possible involvement in pancreas differentiation and prenatal maturation. Anat Rec, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc., Inc.