Branching morphogenesis of the ureteric bud (UB) [induced by the metanephric mesenchyme (MM)] is necessary for normal kidney development. The role of integrins in this complex developmental process is not well understood. However, the recent advent of in vitro model systems to study branching of UB cells and isolated UB tissue makes possible a more detailed analysis of the integrins involved. We detected integrin subunits alpha3, alpha6, beta1, and beta4 in both the UB and cells derived from the early UB. Blocking the function of each of these integrin subunits individually markedly inhibited branching morphogenesis in cell culture models. However, inhibiting individual integrin function with blocking antibodies in whole kidney and isolated UB culture only partially inhibited UB branching morphogenesis, suggesting that, in these more complex in vitro systems, multiple integrins are involved in the branching program. In whole organ and isolated bud culture, marked retardation of UB branching was observed only when both alpha3 and alpha6 integrin subunits were inhibited. The alpha6 integrin subunit can be expressed as both alpha6beta1 and alpha6beta4, and both of these beta subunits are important for UB branching morphogenesis in both cell and organ culture. Furthermore, laminin-5, a common ligand for integrins alpha3beta1 and alpha6beta4, was detected in the developing UB and shown to be required for normal UB branching morphogenesis in whole embryonic kidney organ culture as well as isolated UB culture. Together, these data from UB cell culture, organ culture, and isolated UB culture models indicate that both integrin alpha3 and alpha6 subunits play a direct role in UB branching morphogenesis, as opposed to being modulators of the inductive effects of mesenchyme on UB development. Furthermore the data are consistent with a role for laminin-5, acting through its alpha3beta1 and/or alpha6beta4 integrin receptors, in UB branching during nephrogenesis. These data may help to partially explain the renal phenotype seen in integrin alpha3 and alpha3/alpha6 subunit-deficient animals.
Copyright 2001 Academic Press.