|Ph.D Student||Schneider Jenny|
|Subject||Proximal-Distal Patterning of the Avian|
|Department||Department of Medicine||Supervisor||Professor Thomas Schultheiss|
|Full Thesis text|
The nephron is the fundamental structural and function unit of the kidney. Each mature nephron is patterned along a proximal-distal axis, with blood filtered at the proximal end and urine emerging from the distal end. In order to filter the blood and produce urine, specialized structures are formed at specific proximal-distal locations along the nephron, including the glomerulus at the proximal end, the tubule in the middle, and the collecting duct at the distal end. The developmental processes that specify these different nephron segments are very incompletely understood. Wnt ligands, which are expressed in the nephric duct and later in the nascent nephron itself, are well-characterized inducers of nephrons, being both required and sufficient to initiate nephron formation from nephrogenic mesenchyme. This thesis investigated the hypothesis that Wnt signaling also patterns the proximal-distal nephron axis. Using the chick mesonephros as a model system, Wnt ligand was ectopically expressed in the coelomic lining, thereby introducing a source of Wnt signaling that is at right angles to the endogenous Wnt signal of the nephric duct. Under these conditions, the nephron axis was re-oriented, such that the glomerulus was always located at a position farthest from the Wnt sources. This re-orientation occurred within hours of exposure to ectopic Wnt signaling, and was accompanied initially by a repression of the early glomerular podocyte markers Wt1 and Pod1, followed by their re-emergence at a position distant from the Wnt signals. In parallel, an increase in the number of tubules was seen, and some tubules were seen fusing with the Wnt-expressing coelomic epithelium instead of their normal target, the nephric duct. Activation of the Wnt signaling pathway in mesonephric explant cultures resulted in strong and specific repression of early and late glomerular markers. Together, these data indicate that Wnt signaling patterns the proximal-distal axis of the nephron, with glomeruli differentiating in regions of lowest Wnt signaling.