, Volume 29, Issue 4, pp 609-620

Renin–angiotensin system in ureteric bud branching morphogenesis: implications for kidney disease

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Abstract

Failure of normal branching morphogenesis of the ureteric bud (UB), a key ontogenic process that controls organogenesis of the metanephric kidney, leads to congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT), the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease in children. Recent studies have revealed a central role of the renin–angiotensin system (RAS), the cardinal regulator of blood pressure and fluid/electrolyte homeostasis, in the control of normal kidney development. Mice or humans with mutations in the RAS genes exhibit a spectrum of CAKUT which includes renal medullary hypoplasia, hydronephrosis, renal hypodysplasia, duplicated renal collecting system and renal tubular dysgenesis. Emerging evidence indicates that severe hypoplasia of the inner medulla and papilla observed in angiotensinogen (Agt)- or angiotensin (Ang) II AT 1 receptor (AT 1 R)-deficient mice is due to aberrant UB branching morphogenesis resulting from disrupted RAS signaling. Lack of the prorenin receptor (PRR) in the UB in mice causes reduced UB branching, resulting in decreased nephron endowment, marked kidney hypoplasia, urinary concentrating and acidification defects. This review provides a mechanistic rational supporting the hypothesis that aberrant signaling of the intrarenal RAS during distinct stages of metanephric kidney development contributes to the pathogenesis of the broad phenotypic spectrum of CAKUT. As aberrant RAS signaling impairs normal renal development, these findings advocate caution for the use of RAS inhibitors in early infancy and further underscore a need to avoid their use during pregnancy and to identify the types of molecular processes that can be targeted for clinical intervention.