FGF2 Inhibits Early Pancreatic Lineage Specification during Differentiation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells.
Growth factors are important regulators during organ development. For many vertebrates (but not humans) it is known how they contribute to the formation and expansion of PDX1-positive cells during pancreas organogenesis. Here, the effects of the fibroblast growth factors FGF2, FGF7, FGF10, and epidermal growth factor (EGF) on pancreas development in humans were assessed by using human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs). During this, FGF2 was identified as a potent anti-pancreatic factor whereas FGF7, FGF10, and EGF increased the cell mass while retaining PDX1-positivity. FGF2 increased the expression of the anti-pancreatic factor sonic hedgehog (SHH) while suppressing PDX1 in a dose-dependent manner. Differentiating cells secreted SHH to the medium and we interrogated the cells' secretome during differentiation to globally examine the composition of secreted signaling factors. Members of the TGF-beta-, Wnt-, and FGF-pathways were detected. FGF17 showed a suppressive anti-pancreatic effect comparable to FGF2. By inhibition of specific branches of FGF-receptor signaling, we allocated the SHH-induction by FGF2 to MEK/ERK-signaling and the anti-pancreatic effect of FGF2 to the receptor variant FGFR1c or 3c. Altogether, we report findings on the paracrine activity of differentiating hPSCs during generation of pancreatic progenitors. These observations suggest a different role for FGF2 in humans compared to animal models of pancreas organogenesis.