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Keywords:

  • β-cell;
  • pancreas;
  • patterning;
  • zebrafish

Abstract

Development of the vertebrate pancreas is a complex stepwise process comprising regionalization, cell differentiation, and morphogenesis. Studies in zebrafish are contributing to an emerging picture of pancreas development in which extrinsic signaling molecules influence intrinsic transcriptional programs to allow ultimate differentiation of specific pancreatic cell types. Zebrafish experiments have revealed roles for several signaling molecules in aspects of this process; for example our own work has shown that retinoic acid signals specify the pre-pancreatic endoderm. Time-lapse imaging of live zebrafish embryos has started to provide detailed information about early pancreas morphogenesis. In addition to modeling embryonic development, the zebrafish has recently been used as a model for pancreas regeneration studies. Here, we review the significant progress in these areas and consider the future potential of zebrafish as a diabetes research model.