A conserved notochord enhancer controls pancreas development in Vertebrates

The notochord is an evolutionary novelty in vertebrates that functions as an important signaling center during development. Notochord ablation in chicken has demonstrated that it is crucial for pancreas development. Here, João Amorim, Ana Gali-Macedo and collaborators from José Bessa’s team at I3S show that in zebrafish, the loss of function of Nog2, a Bmp antagonist expressed in the notochord, impairs beta-cell differentiation, compatible with the antagonistic role of Bmp in this process. In addition, the study shows that Nog2 expression in the notochord is induced by at least one notochord enhancer and its loss of function reduces the number of pancreatic progenitors and impairs beta-cell differentiation. Tracing Nog2 diffusion, it was observed that Nog2 emanates from the notochord to the pancreatic progenitor domain. Finally, a notochord enhancer was found in human and mice Nog genomic landscapes, suggesting that the acquisition of a Nog notochord enhancer occurred early in the vertebrate phylogeny and contributes to the development of complex organs like the pancreas.

The article, entitled "A conserved notochord enhancer controls pancreas development in Vertebrates " was published in Cell Reports.