Hippo signaling regulates pancreas development through inactivation of Yap.

Nicholas M. George, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Caroline E. Day, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Brian P. Boerner, University of Nebraska Medical Center
Randy L. Johnson, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
Nora E. Sarvetnick, University of Nebraska Medical Center


The mammalian pancreas is required for normal metabolism, with defects in this vital organ commonly observed in cancer and diabetes. Development must therefore be tightly controlled in order to produce a pancreas of correct size, cell type composition, and physiologic function. Through negative regulation of Yap-dependent proliferation, the Hippo kinase cascade is a critical regulator of organ growth. To investigate the role of Hippo signaling in pancreas biology, we deleted Hippo pathway components in the developing mouse pancreas. Unexpectedly, the pancreas from Hippo-deficient offspring was reduced in size, with defects evident throughout the organ. Increases in the dephosphorylated nuclear form of Yap are apparent throughout the exocrine compartment and correlate with increases in levels of cell proliferation. However, the mutant exocrine tissue displays extensive disorganization leading to pancreatitis-like autodigestion. Interestingly, our results suggest that Hippo signaling does not directly regulate the pancreas endocrine compartment as Yap expression is lost following endocrine specification through a Hippo-independent mechanism. Altogether, our results demonstrate that Hippo signaling plays a crucial role in pancreas development and provide novel routes to a better understanding of pathological conditions that affect this organ.