Inhibition of Hes1 activity in gall bladder epithelial cells promotes insulin expression and glucose responsiveness

R. A. Coad, J. R. Dutton, D. Tosh, J. M W Slack

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The biliary system has a close developmental relationship with the pancreas, evidenced by the natural occurrence of small numbers of biliary-derived β-cells in the biliary system and by the replacement of biliary epithelium with pancreatic tissue in mice lacking the transcription factor Hes1. In normal pancreatic development, Hes1 is known to repress endocrine cell formation. Here we show that glucose-responsive insulin secretion can be induced in biliary epithelial cells when activity of the transcription factor Hes1 is antagonised. We describe a new culture system for adult murine gall bladder epithelial cells (GBECs), free from fibroblast contamination. We show that Hes1 is expressed both in adult murine gall bladder and in cultured GBECs. We have created a new dominant negative Hes1 (ΔHes1) by removal of the DNAbinding domain, and show that it antagonises Hes1 function in vivo. When ΔHes1 is introduced into the GBEC it causes expression of insulin RNA and protein. Furthermore, it confers upon the cells the ability to secrete insulin following exposure to increased external glucose. GBEC cultures are induced to express a wider range of mature b cell markers when cotransduced with ΔHes1 and the pancreatic transcription factor Pdx1. Introduction of ΔHes1 and Pdx1 can therefore initiate a partial respecification of phenotype from biliary epithelial cell towards the pancreatic β cell.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)975-987
Number of pages13
JournalBiochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2009


  • Biliary system
  • Gall bladder
  • Hes1 transcription factor
  • Insulin
  • β cell

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