Signaling pathways that are activated upon interaction of glial cell-line derived neurotrophic factor (Gdnf), its coreceptor Gfrα1, and receptor tyrosine kinase Ret are critical for kidney development and ureter maturation. Outside the kidney, this pathway is implicated in a number of congenital diseases including Hirschsprung disease (intestinal aganglionosis, HSCR) and hereditary cancer syndromes (MEN 2). Total lack of Gdnf, Gfrα1 or Ret in mice results in perinatal lethality due to bilateral renal agenesis or aplasia. In humans, RET mutations have been identified in a spectrum of congenital malformations involving the RET axis including isolated HSCR, isolated congenital anomalies of kidney or urinary tract (CAKUT), or CAKUT and HSCR together. The molecular basis for these pleiotropic effects of RET has just begun to be unraveled. In an effort to delineate the pathogenetic mechanisms that underlie these congenital malformations, we and others have characterized Ret's role in early kidney and urinary system development. Here we present a brief overview of the "many faces" of Ret dysfunction in kidney with particular emphasis on Ret's signaling specificity and intergenic interactions that confer normal urinary system development.
- Branching morphogenesis