PDX1, Neurogenin-3, and MAFA: Critical transcription regulators for beta cell development and regeneration

Yaxi Zhu, Qian Liu, Zhiguang Zhou, Yasuhiro Ikeda

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Transcription factors regulate gene expression through binding to specific enhancer sequences. Pancreas/duodenum homeobox protein 1 (PDX1), Neurogenin-3 (NEUROG3), and V-maf musculoaponeurotic fibrosarcoma oncogene homolog A (MAFA) are transcription factors critical for beta cell development and maturation. NEUROG3 is expressed in endocrine progenitor cells and controls islet differentiation and regeneration. PDX1 is essential for the development of pancreatic exocrine and endocrine cells including beta cells. PDX1 also binds to the regulatory elements and increases insulin gene transcription. Likewise, MAFA binds to the enhancer/promoter region of the insulin gene and drives insulin expression in response to glucose. In addition to those natural roles in beta cell development and maturation, ectopic expression of PDX1, NEUROG3, and/or MAFA has been successfully used to reprogram various cell types into insulin-producing cells in vitro and in vivo, such as pancreatic exocrine cells, hepatocytes, and pluripotent stem cells. Here, we review biological properties of PDX1, NEUROG3, and MAFA, and their applications and limitations for beta cell regenerative approaches. The primary source literature for this review was acquired using a PubMed search for articles published between 1990 and 2017. Search terms include diabetes, insulin, trans-differentiation, stem cells, and regenerative medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number240
JournalStem Cell Research and Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 2 2017


  • Diabetes
  • Embryonic stem cells
  • Induced pluripotent stem cells
  • Regenerative medicine
  • Trans-differentiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
  • Cell Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'PDX1, Neurogenin-3, and MAFA: Critical transcription regulators for beta cell development and regeneration'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this