Betacellulin (BTC), a member of the epidermal growth factor family, is expressed predominantly in the human pancreas and induces the differentiation of a pancreatic acinar cell line (AR42J) into insulin-secreting cells, suggesting that BTC has a physiologically important role in the endocrine pancreas. In this study, we examined the in vivo effect of recombinant human BTC (rhBTC) on glucose intolerance and pancreatic morphology using a new mouse model with glucose intolerance induced by selective alloxan perfusion. RhBTC (1 microg/g body wt) or saline was injected subcutaneously every day from the day after alloxan treatment. The intraperitoneal glucose tolerance test revealed no difference between rhBTC-treated and rhBTC-untreated glucose-intolerant mice at 2-4 weeks. However, glucose tolerance was significantly improved and body weight was significantly increased in rhBTC-treated mice compared with untreated mice at 8 weeks. Islet-like cell clusters, consisting mainly of beta-cells, were increased in the pancreas and were localized in contact with the ductal lining cells and sometimes with acinar cells. In conclusion, administration of rhBTC improved glucose tolerance in this mouse model by increasing beta-cell volume, primarily through accelerated neogenesis from ductal lining cells.

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