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Rho signalling restriction by the RhoGAP Stard13 integrates growth and morphogenesis in the pancreas
Kristin M. Petzold, Heike Naumann, Francesca M. Spagnoli


The development of functional organ architecture relies on coordinated morphogenesis and growth. In the developing pancreas, the branching epithelium is organised in discrete domains, delineating one specific domain of progenitor cells at the tip of the branches. The molecular mechanisms underlying the coordinated action of branching and proliferation in organ formation are largely unknown. Here, we identify the RhoGAP protein Stard13 as an essential regulator of pancreas tissue architecture in the mammalian embryo. Conditional ablation of Stard13 expression in the pancreas disrupts epithelial morphogenesis and tip-domain organisation, resulting in hampered proliferation of tip progenitors and subsequent organ hypoplasia. Stard13 acts by regulating Rho signalling spatially and temporally during pancreas development. Our findings provide new insights into the mechanisms that shape pancreatic epithelium to create a mature organ and establish a functional link between Rho-mediated control of epithelial remodelling and organ size determination, involving reciprocal interaction of actin-MAL/SRF and MAPK signalling pathways.

  • Accepted October 16, 2012.
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