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The zebrafish pronephros

Our research focuses on kidney development and the differentiation of renal cell types. Our Publications >>
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The zebrafish offers many experimental advantages for studies of kidney development. The zebrafish pronephros is a remarkably simple kidney, consisting of only two nephrons with glomeruli fused at the midline, pronephric tubules connecting directly to the glomeruli via a neck segment, and paired bilateral pronephric ducts which convey the blood filtrate outside the animal.
Pronephric anatomy >>

Read current literature on the pronephros >>

Our studies have shown that zebrafish kidney mutants affect several of the principle aspects of nephrogenesis including 1) nephron patterning, 2) epithelial membrane protein trafficking, 3) ciliogenesis, 4) podocyte maturation, vascularization, and filtration in the glomerulus. As a model of human kidney disease, pronephric mutant phenotypes are relevant to cystic kidney disease and nephropathy /proteinuria. Our most recent work has demonstrated a role for cilia in fluid movement not only in the pronephros, but also in the brain to circulate CSF and in Kupffer's vesicle to maintain counterclockwise flow associated with left-right asymetry.

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zebrafish aquaporins

zebrafish cilia movies


ciliogenesis and kidney cystic disease

Mutations in ciliogenic genes and kidney cyst formation

Cilia formation and axonemal transport are important but incompletely understood aspects of a variety of disorders including kidney cystic disease, left-right asymetry, hydrocephalus, retinal degeneration, obesity, and hedgehog signaling. Zebrafish provide a useful model for studying these disorders. More >>

podocyte differentiation and angiogenesis

Glomerular function requires the formation of specialized cell junctions

Slit-diaphragms are ladder-like cell-cell junctions between podocyte foot processes. Blood plasma is filtered as it passes between foot processes and through the slit-diaphragm. Slit-diaphragm proteins implicated in human disease function similarly in zebrafish pronephric podocytes. More >>

nephron patterning

The pronephros is a segmented epithelial tube.

Different segments of the pronephros are distinct in terms of cell morphology, function and expression of ion transporters. Nephron patterning events involving transcription factors restrict podocyte, tubule, and cell fates to their appropriate positions in the nephron.