A gene called Six2
plays a critical role in the development of the kidney, according to investigators at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. They observed that Six2
keeps a population of parent stem cells constantly available to produce the differentiated cells that give rise to specialized parts of the organ
“Our work shows that Six2 is critical to preventing the developing kidney from running out of stem cells and collapsing into a mass of underdeveloped tissue," says Guillermo Oliver, Ph.D., member of the St. Jude department of genetics and tumor cell biology and senior author of the report in the online issue of The EMBO Journal.
The St. Jude team observed that Six2 prevents some of the precursor cells from responding to signals to differentiate into nephrons. That ensures a continual source of undifferentiated stem cells to maintain the growth of the kidney. The researchers also found that Six2 suppresses a cascade of genetic interactions normally triggered by a gene called Wnt4, which usually drives the normal development of kidneys.