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Semin Cell Dev Biol. 2016 Mar;51:117-24. doi: 10.1016/j.semcdb.2016.02.002. Epub 2016 Feb 3.

Using Xenopus to study genetic kidney diseases.

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Renal Division, Department of Medicine, University of Freiburg Medical Center, Hugstetter Straße 55, 79106 Freiburg, Germany; Center for Biological Signaling Studies (BIOSS), Albertstraße 19, 79104 Freiburg, Germany. Electronic address:


Modern sequencing technology is revolutionizing our knowledge of inherited kidney disease. However, the molecular role of genes affected by the rapidly rising number of identified mutations is lagging behind. Xenopus is a highly useful, but underutilized model organism with unique properties excellently suited to decipher the molecular mechanisms of kidney development and disease. The embryonic kidney (pronephros) can be manipulated on only one side of the animal and its formation observed directly through the translucent skin. The moderate evolutionary distance between Xenopus and humans is a huge advantage for studying basic principles of kidney development, but still allows us to analyze the function of disease related genes. Optogenetic manipulations and genome editing by CRISPR/Cas are exciting additions to the toolbox for disease modelling and will facilitate the use of Xenopus in translational research. Therefore, the future of Xenopus in kidney research is bright.


Genetic kidney disease; Kidney organogenesis; Kidney regeneration; Xenopus pronephros

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