Elevated SMAD1/β-catenin molecular complexes and renal medullary cystic dysplasia in ALK3 transgenic mice

Ming C Hu, Tino D. Piscione, Norman D. Rosenblum

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Renal dysplasia, the most frequent cause of childhood renal failure in humans, arises from perturbations in a complex series of morphogenetic events during embryonic renal development. The molecular pathogenesis of renal dysplasia is largely undefined. While investigating the role of a BMP-dependent pathway that inhibits branching morphogenesis in vitro, we generated a novel model of renal dysplasia in a transgenic (Tg) model of ALK3-receptor signaling. We report the renal phenotype, and our discovery of molecular interactions between effectors in the BMP and WNT signaling pathways in dysplastic kidney tissue. Expression of the constitutively active ALK3 receptor ALK3QD, in two independent transgenic lines caused renal aplasia/severe dysgenesis in 1.5% and 8.4% of hemizygous and homozygous Tg mice, respectively, and renal medullary cystic dysplasia in 49% and 74% of hemizygous and homozygous Tg mice, respectively. The dysplastic phenotype, which included a decreased number of medullary collecting ducts, increased medullary mesenchyme, collecting duct cysts and decreased cortical thickness, was apparent by E18.5. We investigated the pathogenesis of dysplasia in these mice, and demonstrated a 30% decrease in branching morphogenesis at E13.5 before the appearance of histopathogical features of dysplasia, and the formation of β-catenin/SMAD1/SMAD4 molecular complexes in dysplastic renal tissue. Increased transcriptional activity of a β-catenin reporter gene in ALK3QD;Tcf-gal mice demonstrated functional cooperativity between the ALK3 and β-catenin-dependent signaling pathways in kidney tissue. Together with our results in the dysplastic mouse kidney, our findings that phospho-SMAD1 and β-catenin are overexpressed in human fetal dysplastic renal tissue suggest that dysregulation of these signaling effectors is pathogenic in human renal dysplasia. Our work provides novel insights into the role that crucial developmental signaling pathways may play during the genesis of malformed renal tissue elements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2753-2766
Number of pages14
Issue number12
StatePublished - Jun 2003


  • ALK3
  • Renal dysplasia
  • SMAD1
  • Signaling
  • β-catenin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


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