Renal Hypodysplasia Associates with a Wnt4 Variant that Causes Aberrant Canonical Wnt Signaling Academic Article uri icon


  • Abnormal differentiation of the renal stem/progenitor pool into kidney tissue can lead to renal hypodysplasia (RHD), but the underlying causes of RHD are not well understood. In this multicenter study, we identified 20 Israeli pedigrees with isolated familial, nonsyndromic RHD and screened for mutations in candidate genes involved in kidney development, including PAX2, HNF1B, EYA1, SIX1, SIX2, SALL1, GDNF, WNT4, and WT1. In addition to previously reported RHD-causing genes, we found that two affected brothers were heterozygous for a missense variant in the WNT4 gene. Functional analysis of this variant revealed both antagonistic and agonistic canonical WNT stimuli, dependent on cell type. In HEK293 cells, WNT4 inhibited WNT3A induced canonical activation, and the WNT4 variant significantly enhanced this inhibition of the canonical WNT pathway. In contrast, in primary cultures of human fetal kidney cells, which maintain WNT activation and more closely represent WNT signaling in renal progenitors during nephrogenesis, this mutation caused significant loss of function, resulting in diminished canonical WNT/β-catenin signaling. In conclusion, heterozygous WNT4 variants are likely to play a causative role in renal hypodysplasia.

publication date

  • January 1, 2013