Wnt Signaling Separates the Progenitor and Endocrine Compartments during Pancreas Development

Nadav Sharon, Jordan Vanderhooft, Juerg Straubhaar, Jonas Mueller, Raghav Chawla, Quan Zhou, Elise N. Engquist, Cole Trapnell, David K. Gifford and Douglas A. Melton
Cell Reports (2019)

Abstract

In vitrodifferentiation of pluripotent cells intobcellsis a promising alternative to cadaveric-islet transplantation as a cure for type 1 diabetes (T1D). During the directed differentiation of human embryonic stem cells (hESCS) by exogenous factors, numerous genes that affect the differentiation process are turned on and off autonomously. Manipulating these reactions could increase the efficiency of differentiation and provide a more complete control over the final composition of cell populations. To uncover in vitro autonomous responses, we performed single-cell RNA sequencing on hESCs as they differentiate in spherical clusters. We observed that endocrine cells and their progenitors exist beside one another in separate compartments that activate distinct genetic pathways. WNT pathway inhibition in the endocrine domain of the differentiating clusters reveals a necessary role for the WNT inhibitor APC during islet formationin vivo. Accordingly, WNT inhibition in vitro causes an increase in the proportion of differentiated endocrine cells.