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Development. 2006 Jan;133(1):151-61. Epub 2005 Nov 30.

Identification of multipotent progenitors in the embryonic mouse kidney by a novel colony-forming assay.

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Division of Stem Cell Regulation, The Institute of Medical Science, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo 108-8639, Japan.


Renal stem or progenitor cells with a multilineage differentiation potential remain to be isolated, and the differentiation mechanism of these cell types in kidney development or regeneration processes is unknown. In an attempt to resolve this issue, we set up an in vitro culture system using NIH3T3 cells stably expressing Wnt4 (3T3Wnt4) as a feeder layer, in which a single renal progenitor in the metanephric mesenchyme forms colonies consisting of several types of epithelial cells that exist in glomeruli and renal tubules. We found that only cells strongly expressing Sall1 (Sall1-GFP(high) cells), a zinc-finger nuclear factor essential for kidney development, form colonies, and that they reconstitute a three-dimensional kidney structure in an organ culture setting. We also found that Rac- and JNK-dependent planar cell polarity (PCP) pathways downstream of Wnt4 positively regulate the colony size, and that the JNK pathway is also involved in mesenchymal-to-epithelial transformation of colony-forming progenitors. Thus our colony-forming assay, which identifies multipotent progenitors in the embryonic mouse kidney, can be used for examining mechanisms of renal progenitor differentiation.

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