Thompson N, Gésina E, Scheinert P, Bucher P, Grapin-Botton A
Pancreas development is initiated by the specification and expansion of a small group of endodermal cells. Several transcription factors are crucial for progenitor maintenance and expansion, but their interactions and the downstream targets mediating their activity are poorly understood. Among those factors, PTF1a, a basic helix-loop-helix (bHLH) transcription factor which controls pancreas exocrine cell differentiation, maintenance, and functionality, is also needed for the early specification of pancreas progenitors. We used RNA profiling and chromatin immunoprecipitation (ChIP) sequencing to identify a set of targets in pancreas progenitors. We demonstrate that Mnx1, a gene that is absolutely required in pancreas progenitors, is a major direct target of PTF1a and is regulated by a distant enhancer element. Pdx1, Nkx6.1, and Onecut1 are also direct PTF1a targets whose expression is promoted by PTF1a. These proteins, most of which were previously shown to be necessary for pancreas bud maintenance or formation, form a transcription factor network that allows the maintenance of pancreas progenitors. In addition, we identify Bmp7, Nr5a2, RhoV, and P2rx1 as new targets of PTF1a in pancreas progenitors.