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Analysis of Ureteric Bud Morphogenesis by Reassociation of Fetal Kidney Cells

Leclerc, Kevin

While the genetic control of ureteric bud (UB) morphogenesis has been extensively studied, the cellular basis of this process remains unclear. The renal organoid system is a novel technique in which embryonic kidneys are dissociated into single cells and then reaggregated, where they reassociate to form organotypic structures. This system may be very beneficial for investigating the cellular basis of ureteric bud development. Here, we first used a fluorescent UB marker, Hoxb7:myrVenus, and time-lapse microscopy to characterize the cellular and tissue-level events during self-organization and UB morphogenesis of E12.5 or E14.5 renal organoids. Briefly, we found that UB structures self-assembled by aggregation of individual cells that sent out long cell processes. The cellular aggregates grew and elongated into epithelial tubes that displayed characteristic ampullae, bifurcated, and appropriately expressed UB tip markers analogous to their in vivo counterparts. We also found that cap mesenchymal cells are attracted to newly formed epithelial structures early in renal organoid development, and were later found in cell clusters surrounding new branches.
RET is a trans-membrane tyrosine kinase receptor (RTK), expressed in ureteric bud cells, whose expression is gradually restricted to the tips of the growing ureteric tree. We demonstrate that the renal organoid system can be used, as an alternative to the generation of in vivo chimeric embryos, to study Ret-dependent cell rearrangements previously shown to establish and maintain the UB tip progenitor domain. Chimeric renal organoids that juxtaposed wild-type cells with Sprouty1–/– mutant cells (higher Ret-signaling) or with Ret51/cre (lower Ret-signaling) mutant cells recapitulated the cell sorting pattern observed in similar in vivo chimeras. The cells with higher Ret-signaling preferentially sorted to, and were maintained in, the forming and growing tips of these mosaic ureteric bud structures, out-competing cells with lower Ret-signaling.
We then used the mosaic organoid system to ask if fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 (Fgfr2), another RTK expressed in the ureteric bud and important for its development, also mediates individual cell rearrangements that generate and maintain the UB tips. UB cells null for Fgfr2 were largely unable to compete with wild-type cells for occupancy of the UB tips in chimeric renal organoids. Using the innovative MASTR (Mosaic Mutant Analysis with Spatial and Temporal Control of Recombination) technique in vivo, mosaic homozygous deletion of Fgfr2 in newly formed ureteric buds also revealed that mutant cells were slightly deficient in their ability to contribute to Fgfr2 heterozygous UB tips. This demonstrates a novel, cell-autonomous role of Fgfr2 in ureteric bud development.
Matrix metalloproteinase 14 (MMP14) is a membrane-bound protein known to participate in a wide variety of cell functions including degradation of the extracellular matrix (ECM), cell signaling, and cell-autonomous cell migration. It is expressed in the UB and was discovered to act downstream of Ret-signaling. Although needed in the ureteric epithelium for ECM degradation and proper UB morphogenesis, its specific function in the UB has not been thoroughly investigated. In generating in vivo chimeras, we discovered that Mmp14 null cells could contribute to wild-type ureteric bud tips at E12.5 and E14.5, demonstrating that, despite its documented role in UB branching, Mmp14 does not have a cell-autonomous role in the cell rearrangements observed during UB morphogenesis.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Cellular, Molecular and Biomedical Studies
Thesis Advisors
Costantini, Franklin D.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
December 29, 2015