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      Profiling Gene Expression in Kidney Development


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          Rapid determination of the expression levels of all genes can be achieved with microarrays. This technology is beginning to revolutionize the study of kidney development. Genome-wide expression studies of the developing rat, mouse and human kidneys have found thousands of expressed genes, with many hundreds showing changes in expression as a function of developmental time. The resulting gene expression profiles provide an important discovery function, identifying new genes and pathways not previously implicated in kidney organogenesis. In combination with microdissection techniques, microarrays further extend global gene expression analysis to discrete components or cell types within the kidney. The resulting detailed molecular portrait of normal kidney development provides a baseline for studies of the many mouse mutants available with abnormal kidney development.

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          Development of an siRNA-based method for repressing specific genes in renal organ culture and its use to show that the Wt1 tumour suppressor is required for nephron differentiation.

          Wt1 is a tumour suppressor gene, mutation of which is a cause of Wilms' tumour, a childhood renal nephroblastoma. Wt1 is expressed in a rich pattern during renal development suggesting that it acts at three stages: determination of the kidney area, the differentiation of nephrons and maturation of glomeruli. Wt1-/- mice confirm that Wt1 is essential for the inception of kidney development; cells that ought to form kidneys die by apoptosis instead. Specific human WT1 mutations cause defects of glomerular maturation (Denys-Drash and Frasier syndromes), providing circumstantial evidence for action of Wt1 during glomerular maturation. There is, however, no genetic evidence for a function during nephron differentiation because this stage is never reached in Wt1-/- mice. We have therefore developed a novel technique, based on small interfering RNA (siRNA), to repress the expression of Wt1 and other specific genes at different stages of kidney development in culture. We find that early repression of Wt1 phenocopies the Wt1-/- mouse, but later repression prevents cells differentiating into nephrons and causes them instead to proliferate abnormally, possibly mimicking aspects of Wilms' tumour. In line with established hypotheses about genetic pathways that control kidney development, we find that repressing Pax2 using siRNAs represses Wt1 expression and blocks both bud growth and nephron differentiation, but that repressing Wnt4 blocks nephron differentiation without affecting Wt1 expression. As well as illuminating previously inaccessible aspects of Wt1 biology, our results suggest that siRNA in organ culture will be a powerful method for analyzing other developmental pathways and testing the effects of stage-specific loss of tumour suppressor genes.
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            WT1 regulates the expression of the major glomerular podocyte membrane protein Podocalyxin.

            The WT1 tumor suppressor gene encodes a zinc finger transcription factor expressed in differentiating glomerular podocytes. Complete inactivation of WT1 in the mouse leads to failure of mesenchymal induction and renal agenesis, an early developmental phenotype that prevents analysis of subsequent stages in glomerular differentiation [1]. In humans with Denys-Drash Syndrome, a heterozygous germline mutation in WT1 is associated with specific defects in glomeruli and an increased risk for developing Wilms Tumor [2,3]. WT1 target genes implicated in cell cycle regulation and cellular proliferation have been proposed [4], but the link between WT1 function and glomerular differentiation is unexplained. Here, we show that inducible expression of WT1 in rat embryonic kidney cell precursors leads to the induction of endogenous Podocalyxin, the major structural membrane protein of glomerular podocytes, which is implicated in the maintenance of filtration slits. Binding of WT1 to conserved elements within the Podocalyxin gene promoter results in potent transcriptional activation, and the specific expression pattern of Podocalyxin in the developing kidney mirrors that of WT1 itself. These observations support a role for WT1 in the specific activation of a glomerular differentiation program in renal precursors and provide a molecular basis for the glomerulonephropathy that is characteristic of Denys-Drash Syndrome.
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              Changes in global gene expression patterns during development and maturation of the rat kidney.

              We set out to define patterns of gene expression during kidney organogenesis by using high-density DNA array technology. Expression analysis of 8,740 rat genes revealed five discrete patterns or groups of gene expression during nephrogenesis. Group 1 consisted of genes with very high expression in the early embryonic kidney, many with roles in protein translation and DNA replication. Group 2 consisted of genes that peaked in midembryogenesis and contained many transcripts specifying proteins of the extracellular matrix. Many additional transcripts allied with groups 1 and 2 had known or proposed roles in kidney development and included LIM1, POD1, GFRA1, WT1, BCL2, Homeobox protein A11, timeless, pleiotrophin, HGF, HNF3, BMP4, TGF-alpha, TGF-beta2, IGF-II, met, FGF7, BMP4, and ganglioside-GD3. Group 3 consisted of transcripts that peaked in the neonatal period and contained a number of retrotransposon RNAs. Group 4 contained genes that steadily increased in relative expression levels throughout development, including many genes involved in energy metabolism and transport. Group 5 consisted of genes with relatively low levels of expression throughout embryogenesis but with markedly higher levels in the adult kidney; this group included a heterogeneous mix of transporters, detoxification enzymes, and oxidative stress genes. The data suggest that the embryonic kidney is committed to cellular proliferation and morphogenesis early on, followed sequentially by extracellular matrix deposition and acquisition of markers of terminal differentiation. The neonatal burst of retrotransposon mRNA was unexpected and may play a role in a stress response associated with birth. Custom analytical tools were developed including "The Equalizer" and "eBlot," which contain improved methods for data normalization, significance testing, and data mining.

                Author and article information

                Nephron Exp Nephrol
                Cardiorenal Medicine
                S. Karger AG
                December 2004
                22 December 2004
                : 98
                : 4
                : e109-e113
                aDivision of Nephrology and bDivision of Developmental Biology, Children’s Hospital Research Foundation, Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio, USA
                81554 Nephron Exp Nephrol 2004;98:e109–e113
                © 2004 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Page count
                References: 15, Pages: 1
                Self URI (application/pdf): https://www.karger.com/Article/Pdf/81554
                Self URI (text/html): https://www.karger.com/Article/FullText/81554
                Self URI (journal page): https://www.karger.com/SubjectArea/Nephrology

                Cardiovascular Medicine,Nephrology
                Gene expression profile,Microarrays,Organogenesis,Kidney development


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