The synthesis and secretion of proteins during development of the pancreas was analyzed using two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. The pattern of synthesis of the total proteins of the pancreas was found to change very little from 14 to 18 d gestation. In addition, the protein synthetic pattern of the embryonic pancreas was very similar to the protein patterns of several other embryonic tissues (gut, lung, and mesenchyme). Between 18 d gestation and the adult stage, the synthesis of the majority of protein species fades as the synthesis of the secretory (pro)enzymes becomes dominant. Thus, the terminal differentiation of the pancreas appears to involve the dominant expression of a limited set of genes (coding, in part, for the digestive [pro]enzymes) while the pattern of expression of the remaining domain remains relatively unchanged. Many of the secretory (pro)enzymes were identified and their synthesis during development was monitored. The synthesis of several secretory proteins was detected between 15 and 18 d gestation (e.g., amylase and chymotrypsinogen), whereas the synthesis of others was not detected until after 18 d gestation (i.e., trypsinogen, ribonuclease, proelastase, and lipase). Between 18 d gestation and the adult stage, the synthesis of the digestive (pro)enzymes increases to > 90% of pancreatic protein synthesis. The secretion of digestive (pro)enzymes was detected as early as 15 d gestation. The selective release of a second set of proteins was detected in the early embryo. These proteins are not detected in the adult pancreas or in zymogen granules but are also released by several other embryonic tissues. The function of this set of proteins is unknown.

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