Molecular events in the organization of renal tubular epithelium: From nephrogenesis to regeneration

R. Bacallao, L. G. Fine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

120 Scopus citations


Information from studies of embryonic nephrons and established renal tubular cell lines in culture can be integrated to derive a picture of how the renal tubule develops and regenerates after acute injury. During development, the formation of a morphologically polarized epithelium from committed nephric mesenchymal cells requires an external signal for mitogenesis and differentiation. Polypeptide growth factors, in some cases mediated through oncogene expression, act in an autocrine or paracrine fashion to stimulate the production of extracellular matrix proteins that probably provide the earliest orientation signal for the cell. Interaction of these proteins with cell surface receptors leads to early organization of the cytoskeletal actin network, which is the major scaffolding for further differentiation and for definition of plasma membrane domains. The formation of cell-cell contacts via specialized adhesion molecules integrates the epithelium into a polarized monolayer and maintains its fence function, i.e., separation of plasma membrane domains. Microtubules probably participate in the delivery of vesicles to specific plasma membrane domains and in the spatial organization of intracellular organelles. Following acute renal injury, this sequence of events appears to be reversed, resulting in partial or complete loss of differentiated features. Regeneration seems to follow the same pattern of sequential differentiation steps as nephrogenesis. The integrity of the epithelium is restored by reestablishing only those stages of differentiation that have been lost. Where cell death occurs, mitogenesis in adjacent cells restores the continuity of the epithelium and the entire sequence of differentiation events is initiated in the newly generated cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F913-F924
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Fluid and Electrolyte Physiology
Issue number6 (26/6)
StatePublished - 1989


  • acute tubular necrosis
  • cell-cell adhesion
  • cytoskeleton
  • extracellular matrix
  • growth factors
  • oncogenes
  • renal tubule

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology

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