A new study published in PLoS Genetics by Miguel Constância’s group shows that a gene called Igf2, which produces a protein similar to insulin, and is active only on the chromosome inherited from the father, is key for the control of pancreas size and function. Within the pancreas, Igf2 is mostly active in a specific class of cells (called mesenchyme-derived cells) that support the function of the exocrine component (producing digestive enzymes that break down food so it can be easily absorbed by the intestine) and endocrine cells (producing insulin and other hormones that control blood sugar levels). When Igf2 is lost specifically within the mesenchyme-derived cells, the entire pancreas becomes smaller, with reduced capacity to produce digestive enzymes and to maintain normal blood sugar levels during pregnancy.
Hammerle CM, Sandovici I, Brierley GV, Smith NM, Zimmer WE, Zvetkova I, et al. (2020) Mesenchyme-derived IGF2 is a major paracrine regulator of pancreatic growth and function. PLoS Genet 16(10): e1009069.