Mechanisms of epithelial branching, nephrogenesis, and the role of the Rho-GTPase family in kidney development
Lindström, Nils Olof
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The metanephric kidney consists of two types of epithelia; the Wolffian duct-derived ureteric bud and the nephrogenic components that originate from mesenchymal-toepithelial transitions in the metanephric mesenchyme. The ureteric bud forms when inductive signals from the metanephric mesenchyme stimulates the evagination of an epithelial tube from the Wolffian duct into the mesenchyme. Reciprocal signalling between the ureteric bud and the metanephric mesenchyme regulates the branching of the ureteric bud and the induction of nephron formation. Inductive and inhibitory signalling of ureteric bud growth and branching has been shown by several protein families, however, the mechanical aspects of ureteric bud branching and nephrogenesis are largely unknown. I investigated the roles of Rac1-GTPase and Rho-kinase during kidney development. These proteins are important regulators of the cytoskeleton where Rac1 is a promoter of actin filament polymerisation and Rho-kinase directly stimulates the formation and contraction of actin-myosin stress fibres. Using a cell-permeable inhibitor, Rac1 was inhibited with no effects on nephron formation or subsequent segmentation and patterning. Inhibition of active Rac1 significantly reduced the level of ureteric bud branching and also resulted in lower proliferation rates. Rho-kinase was similarly targeted using two inhibitors. Rho-kinase inhibition had important effects on nephron formation and nephron maturation. Inhibition of Rhokinase resulted in decreased levels of nephron formation and severely morphologically abnormal nephrons. The formation of apical-basal polarity was disturbed as was the development of the visceral and parietal epithelia; precursors of the renal corpuscle. Inhibition of Rho-kinase led to abnormal formation of the proximal-distal axis and abnormal segmentation of the nephron. The effects of Rho-kinase inhibition were partially mimicked by direct targeting of actin-myosin contractions using a myosin-ATPase inhibitor. This demonstrated that Rho-kinase is necessary during multiple stages of nephrogenesis and maturation, at least in part, as a result of its ability to regulate actin-myosin contraction. These results show that Rac1 and Rho-kinase play important roles during several aspects of kidney development and highlights the significance of further investigating the mechanisms involved during kidney organogenesis.