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Endocrine pancreas

Reviewer: Deepali Jain, M.D. (see Reviewers page)
Revised: 30 September 2014, last major update August 2012
Copyright: (c) 2001-2014, PathologyOutlines.com, Inc.


● Consists of islets of Langerhans, represents 1% of pancreas (percentage higher at birth)
● Round, compact, highly vascularized with scanty connective tissue
● More irregular outline and trabecular arrangement in posterior head of pancreas with cells producing pancreatic polypeptide
● Size of islets usually 0.1 to 0.2 mm, endodermal origin, one million islets present in pancreas
● Islet composition: beta cells (68%), alpha cells (20%), delta cells (10%), PP cells (2%), serotonin cells (rare)
● Post-gastrectomy, may get islet hypertrophy, then beta cell proliferation, then atrophy and amylin deposits (Hum Pathol 2000;31:1368)
Alpha cells: produce glucagon; peripherally dense and round on EM
Beta cells: produce insulin and islet cell amyloid polypeptide (amylin), crystalline appearance on EM with surrounding halo
Delta cells: produce somatostatin (represses release of insulin and glucagon), large pale granules on EM
D1 cells: produce vasoactive intestinal polypeptide (VIP), which induces glycogenolysis and hyperglycemia, stimulates GI fluid secretion and causes secretory diarrhea
Enterochromaffin cells: synthesize serotonin, produce carcinoid syndrome
Gastrin cells: pancreas usually lacks gastrin producing cells, although gastrinomas are common
PP cells: produce pancreatic polypeptide, which stimulates secretion of gastric and intestinal enzymes and inhibits intestinal motility; present in islets and scattered in exocrine pancreas; more PP cells in posterior head of pancreas (from ventral bud)
Nesidioblastosis: islets in intimate association with ducts with formation of ductuloinsular complexes
Nesidiodysplasia: loss of the usual centrilobular concentration of larger islets, with increased small irregularly distributed aggregates of islet cells; also increase in beta cell nuclear size and DNA content; may be associated with endocrine neoplasms (Hum Pathol 1988;19:1215)
Peliosis: selective congestion and dilation of vessels of islets only, not seen in vessels elsewhere

Micro images

Islets in newborn

Islets: cells with clear cytoplasm (centroacinar and ductal cells) stand out from a background of basophilic acinar cells

Adult pancreas-ordinary type islet

Adult pancreas-irregular type islet

Adult pancreas: distribution of islet cell types

Islet rich in PP cells in posterior part of pancreatic head

Islet hyperplasia of Beckwith-Wiedemann Syndrome: note crowding without fusion of islets inside pancreatic lobules. (Courtesy of Dr. Cesare Bordi)

Nesidioblastosis in adult with persistent adult hyperinsulinemic hypoglycemia: clustering of irregular islets in vicinity of small ductules

Positive stains

● Chromogranin, synaptophysin, neuron specific enolase, neurofilament

Electron microscopy images

Zymogen granules

Adult pancreatic islet cells

End of Pancreas > Endocrine pancreas

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