The pathogenesis of autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease: an update

Curr Opin Nephrol Hypertens. 2000 Jul;9(4):385-94. doi: 10.1097/00041552-200007000-00010.


The identification of PKD1 and PKD2, the two major genes responsible for autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, are the seminal discoveries upon which much of the current investigation into the pathogenesis of this common heritable disease is based. A major mechanistic insight was achieved with the discovery that autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease occurs by a two-hit mechanism requiring somatic inactivation of the normal allele in individual polarized epithelial cells. Most recent advances are focused on the function of the respective protein products, polycystin-1 and polycystin-2. Indirect evidence supports an interaction between polycystin-1 and -2, albeit it is unlikely that they work in concert in all tissues and at all times. They associate in yeast two hybrid and cotransfection assays and there is a striking similarity in the renal and pancreatic cystic phenotypes of Pkd2-/- and Pkd1del34/del34 mice. Also, the respective homologues of both proteins are expressed in the same sensory neuronal cells in the nematode and the human disease phenotypes remain completely overlapping with the major difference being in relative severity. Mounting evidence supports the hypothesis that polycystin-1 is a cell surface receptor. A close homologue in the sea urchin sperm mediates the acrosome reaction in response to contact with egg-jelly, the nematode homologue functions in mechano- or chemosensation, and the solution structure of the repeated extracellular polycystic kidney disease domains reveals a beta-sandwich fold commonly found in surface receptor molecules. Indirect evidence also supports the initial hypothesis that polycystin-2 is a calcium channel subunit. Several closely related homologues retain the calcium channel signature motif but differ in their predicted interaction domains, and one of these homologues has been shown to be a calcium regulated cation channel. Several important distinctions in polcystin-1 and -2 function have also been discovered. Polycystin-2 has a role in cardiac development that polcystin-1 does not. High level polycystin-2 expression in renal epithelial cells coincides with maturation and elongation of tubules and, unlike polycystin-1, persists into adulthood. In cells in tissue culture, polycystin-2 is expressed exclusively in the endoplasmic reticulum whilst the cellular expression of polycystin-1 remains unknown. Overall, the difficult task of understanding the autosomal dominant polycystic disease process is proceeding apace.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium Channels / genetics
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / deficiency
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics*
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Polycystic Kidney, Autosomal Dominant / genetics*
  • Polycystic Kidney, Autosomal Dominant / physiopathology*
  • Proteins / genetics*
  • Proteins / physiology
  • TRPP Cation Channels


  • Calcium Channels
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proteins
  • TRPP Cation Channels
  • polycystic kidney disease 1 protein
  • polycystic kidney disease 2 protein