Development of a 3D atlas of the embryonic pancreas for topological and quantitative analysis of heterologous cell interactions

Laura Glorieux, Aleksandra Sapala, David Willnow, Manon Moulis, Anna Salowka, Jean Francois Darrigrand, Shlomit Edri, Anat Schonblum, Lina Sakhneny, Laura Schaumann, Harold F. Gómez, Christine Lang, Lisa Conrad, Fabien Guillemot, Shulamit Levenberg, Limor Landsman, Dagmar Iber, Christophe E. Pierreux, Francesca M. Spagnoli

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Generating comprehensive image maps, while preserving spatial three-dimensional (3D) context, is essential in order to locate and assess quantitatively specific cellular features and cell-cell interactions during organ development. Despite recent advances in 3D imaging approaches, our current knowledge of the spatial organization of distinct cell types in the embryonic pancreatic tissue is still largely based on two-dimensional histological sections. Here, we present a light-sheet fluorescence microscopy approach to image the pancreas in three dimensions and map tissue interactions at key time points in the mouse embryo. We demonstrate the utility of the approach by providing volumetric data, 3D distribution of three main cellular components (epithelial, mesenchymal and endothelial cells) within the developing pancreas, and quantification of their relative cellular abundance within the tissue. Interestingly, our 3D images show that endocrine cells are constantly and increasingly in contact with endothelial cells forming small vessels, whereas the interactions with mesenchymal cells decrease over time. These findings suggest distinct cell-cell interaction requirements for early endocrine cell specification and late differentiation. Lastly, we combine our image data in an open-source online repository (referred to as the Pancreas Embryonic Cell Atlas).

Original languageEnglish
Article numberdev199655
JournalDevelopment (Cambridge, England)
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Cell-cell interactions
  • Endothelial cells
  • Light-sheet fluorescence microscopy
  • Mesenchyme
  • Mouse embryo
  • Pancreas


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