The mammalian kidney is a distinctive organ, that evolves on basis of an interplay between epithelial and mesenchymal tissues. Development of kidney occurs when the epithelial Wolffian duct generates the ureteric bud in its caudal end. Perhaps it then grows into preordained kidney mesenchyme and starts to branch over there, which eventually induces nephrogenesis. Several studies have revealed a crucial role of the signaling Wnt family, which is indeed essential for the growth and differentiation of the kidney during embryological development. The Wnt family is a sequence of secretory glycoproteins with a cysteine-rich region. In vivo, gene-inactivation studies with ES cells have revealed the roles for Wnt-4, 9b, and 11. Out of which, Wnt-4 appears to be the only one of the currently characterized Wnts that is expressed in the nephron precursor cells. The Wnt signaling cascades are mainly provoked by the downstream effector beta-catenin.
Having observed many studies, a hypothesis has been made that Wnt/beta-catenin signaling plays a role as a double-edged sword in doing two things: differentiation and maintenance. Experiments were done by growing a large number of nephron progenitor cells(NPCs) in which different levels of beta-catenin activating chemicals were added. They observed that the Wnt pathway reckoned on another group of transcription factors like TCF/LEF. These are of two types where one type inhibits genes connecting to differentiation, and the other outperform the process of differentiation. For instance, at high levels of beta-catenin, the activating genes of TCF/LEF are replaced with the inhibiting members which activate the NPCs to differentiate into more specialized types of kidney cells. At the lowest expression of this gene pathway, it makes the cells maintain their population without any differentiation.
Later, researchers drew a line stating that the Wnt pathway could control various expressions inside the cell, and would contribute a lot to kidney development. Further study is required to make a much bigger impact on the field of medicine so that we can have all the favorable treatments soon.
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Source: Medical Xpress