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Am J Pathol. 2002 Mar;160(3):973-83.

Expression of PKD1 and PKD2 transcripts and proteins in human embryo and during normal kidney development.

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INSERM U423 and the Département deGénétique et Unité INSERM U393, Hôpital Necker-Enfants Malades, Paris, France.


Autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease, one of the most frequent human genetic disorders, is genetically heterogeneous. Most cases result from mutations of PKD1 or PKD2 encoding polycystin-1 or polycystin-2, respectively. Polycystin-1 is a large transmembrane protein containing several domains involved in cell-cell and/or cell-matrix interactions. Polycystin-2 is transmembrane glycoprotein sharing homology with some families of cation channels. Despite a large number of reports, the tissue distribution of these two proteins, especially of polycystin-1, is still debated. We investigated the expression pattern of PKD1 and PKD2 transcripts and proteins during human embryogenesis and kidney development, using Northern blot analysis, in situ hybridization, and immunohistochemical methods. For each gene, the expression pattern of transcripts and protein was concordant. In human 5- to 6-week-old embryos, both genes are widely expressed, mainly in neural tissue, cardiomyocytes, endodermal derivatives, and mesonephros. At this age, PKD2 but not PKD1 expression is observed in the ureteric bud and the uninduced metanephros. Thereafter, PKD2 is diffusely expressed at all stages of nephron development, whereas high PKD1 expression first appears in differentiated proximal tubules. Proximal tubule expression of both genes decreases from weeks 20 to 24 onwards. PKD1 transcripts, later restricted to distal tubules in fetal nephrogenesis, are no longer detected in adult kidneys, which nevertheless maintain a faint expression of polycystin-1, whereas persistent expression of PKD2 transcripts and protein is observed throughout nephrogenesis. Overall, contrary to previous observations, we found profound differences in the spatiotemporal expression of PKD1 and PKD2 during nephrogenesis, PKD2 being expressed earlier and more diffusely than PKD1. These data suggest that polycystins could interact with different partners, at least during kidney development.

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