The effect of the glucocorticoid analogue, dexamethasone, on the development of the embryonic pancreas was studied in tissue culture. It specifically enhances the accumulation of exocrine enzymes without altering the level of general cell proteins. The enhancement, however, is not symmetrical: the cellular levels of the two major exocrine products, amylase and chymotrypsinogen, are increased about 10- and 2-fold, respectively. Two other zymogens that are present in minor quantities, procarboxypeptidases A and B, are also increased, whereas no effect is seen on lipase A. Coordinate with these effects on synthesis, there is a dramatic change in the morphology of dexamethasone-stimulated acinar cells. Their number of zymogen granules is higher and crystalline arrays are found in the rough endoplasmic reticulum. Dexamethasone also inhibits cell replication, perhaps by selectively inhibiting the last cell divisions of the culture period. At the same time, there is a disproportionate reduction in the insulin content of cultured rudiments. We find that pancreatic development is normal in the absence of dexamethasone and that this glucocorticoid does not precociously induce the appearance of the specific secretory products, but rather enhances by a constant degree their synthesis and accumulation. Therefore, we conclude that glucocorticoids may play a modulatory but not an inductive role in pancreatic development.

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