Transcriptional dysregulation in the ureteric bud causes multicystic dysplastic kidney by branching morphogenesis defect

Qiusha Guo, Piyush Tripathi, Scott R. Manson, Paul F. Austin, Feng Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose The calcineurin-NFAT signaling pathway regulates the transcription of genes important for development. It is impacted by various genetic and environmental factors. We investigated the potential role of NFAT induced transcriptional dysregulation in the pathogenesis of congenital abnormalities of the kidneys and urinary tract. Materials and Methods A murine model of conditional NFATc1 activation in the ureteric bud was generated and examined for histopathological changes. Metanephroi were also cultured in vitro to analyze branching morphogenesis in real time. Results NFATc1 activation led to defects resembling multicystic dysplastic kidney. These mutants showed severe disorganization of branching morphogenesis characterized by decreased ureteric bud branching and the disconnection of ureteric bud derivatives from the main collecting system. The orphan ureteric bud derivatives may have continued to induce nephrogenesis and likely contributed to the subsequent formation of blunt ended filtration units and cysts. The ureter also showed irregularities consistent with impaired epithelial-mesenchymal interaction. Conclusions This study reveals the profound effects of NFAT signaling dysregulation on the ureteric bud and provides insight into the pathogenesis of multicystic dysplastic kidney. Our results suggest that the obstruction hypothesis and the bud theory may not be mutually exclusive to explain the pathogenesis of multicystic dysplastic kidney. Ureteric bud dysfunction such as that induced by NFAT activation can disrupt ureteric bud-metanephric mesenchyma interaction, causing primary defects in branching morphogenesis, subsequent dysplasia and cyst formation. Obstruction of the main collecting system can further enhance these defects, producing the pathological changes associated with multicystic dysplastic kidney.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1784-1790
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Urology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2015


  • NFAT transcription factors
  • etiology
  • kidney
  • morphogenesis
  • organogenesis


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