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Mol Cell Biol. 2002 Mar;22(5):1474-87.

Genetic dissection of cadherin function during nephrogenesis.

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Department of Medical Biochemistry, Göteborg University, S-405 30 Göteborg, Sweden.


The distinct expression of R-cadherin in the induced aggregating metanephric mesenchyme suggests that it may regulate the mesenchymal-epithelial transition during kidney development. To address whether R-cadherin is required for kidney ontogeny, R-cadherin-deficient mice were generated. These mice appeared to be healthy and were fertile, demonstrating that R-cadherin is not essential for embryogenesis. The only kidney phenotype of adult mutant animals was the appearance of dilated proximal tubules, which was associated with an accumulation of large intracellular vacuoles. Morphological analysis of nephrogenesis in R-cadherin(-/-) mice in vivo and in vitro revealed defects in the development of both ureteric bud-derived cells and metanephric mesenchyme-derived cells. First, the morphology and organization of the proximal parts of the ureteric bud epithelium were altered. Interestingly, these morphological changes correlated with an increased rate of apoptosis and were further supported by perturbed branching and patterning of the ureteric bud epithelium during in vitro differentiation. Second, during in vitro studies of mesenchymal-epithelial conversion, significantly fewer epithelial structures developed from R-cadherin(-/-) kidneys than from wild-type kidneys. These data suggest that R-cadherin is functionally involved in the differentiation of both mesenchymal and epithelial components during metanephric kidney development. Finally, to investigate whether the redundant expression of other classic cadherins expressed in the kidney could explain the rather mild kidney defects in R-cadherin-deficient mice, we intercrossed R-cadherin(-/-) mice with cadherin-6(-/-), P-cadherin(-/-), and N-cadherin(+/-) mice. Surprisingly, however, in none of the compound knockout strains was kidney development affected to a greater extent than within the individual cadherin knockout strains.

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