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Pediatr Nephrol. 2014 Apr;29(4):629-35. doi: 10.1007/s00467-013-2631-4. Epub 2013 Oct 16.

Urinary tract pacemaker cells: current knowledge and insights from nonrenal pacemaker cells provide a basis for future discovery.

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Program in Developmental and Stem Cell Biology, The Hospital for Sick Children, Peter Gilgan Centre for Research and Learning, 686 Bay Street, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5G OA4.


Coordinated ureteric peristalsis propels urine from the kidney to the bladder. Cells in the renal pelvis and ureter spontaneously generate and propagate electrical activity to control this process. Recently, c-kit tyrosine kinase and hyperpolarization-activated cyclic nucleotide-gated channel 3 (HCN3) were identified in the upper urinary tract. Both of these proteins are required for coordinated proximal to distal contractions in the ureter. Alterations in pacemaker cell expression are present in multiple congenital kidney diseases, suggesting a functional contribution by these cells to pathologic states. In contrast to gut and heart pacemaker cells, the developmental biology of ureteric pacemaker cells, including cell lineage and signaling mechanisms, is undefined. Here, we review pacemaker cell identify and function in the urinary pelvis and ureter and the control of pacemaker function by Hedgehog-GLI signaling. Next, we highlight current knowledge of gut and heart pacemaker cells that is likely to provide insight into developmental mechanisms that could control urinary pacemaker cells.

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