Background & Aims: The mature pancreatic acinar cell is dedicated to the production of very large amounts of digestive enzymes. The early stages of pancreatic development require the Rbpj form of the trimeric Pancreas Transcription Factor 1 complex (PTF1-J). As acinar development commences, Rbpjl gradually replaces Rbpj; in the mature pancreas, PTF1 contains Rbpjl (PTF1-L). We investigated whether PTF1-L controls the expression of genes that complete the final stage of acinar differentiation. Methods: We analyzed acinar development and transcription in mice with disrupted Rbpjl (Rbpjlko/ko mice). We performed comprehensive analyses of the messenger RNA population and PTF1 target genes in pancreatic acinar cells from these and wild-type mice. Results: In Rbpjlko/ko mice, acinar differentiation was incomplete and characterized by decreased expression (as much as 99%) of genes that encode digestive enzymes or proteins of regulated exocytosis and mitochondrial metabolism. Whereas PTF1-L bound regulatory sites of genes in normal adult pancreatic cells, the embryonic form (PTF1-J) persisted in the absence of Rbpjl and replaced PTF1-L; the extent of replacement determined gene expression levels. Loss of PTF1-L reduced expression (>2-fold) of only about 50 genes, 90% of which were direct targets of PTF1-L. The magnitude of the effects on individual digestive enzyme genes correlated with the developmental timing of gene activation. Absence of Rbpjl increased pancreatic expression of liver-restricted messenger RNA. Conclusions: Replacement of Rbpj by Rbpjl in the PTF1 complex drives acinar differentiation by maximizing secretory protein synthesis, stimulating mitochondrial metabolism and cytoplasmic creatine-phosphate energy stores, completing the packaging and secretory apparatus, and maintaining acinar-cell homeostasis.
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