Cellular and subcellular localization of the ARPKD protein; fibrocystin is expressed on primary cilia

Hum Mol Genet. 2003 Oct 15;12(20):2703-10. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddg274. Epub 2003 Aug 12.


Autosomal recessive polycystic kidney disease (ARPKD) is an infantile form of PKD characterized by fusiform dilation of collecting ducts and congenital hepatic fibrosis. The ARPKD gene, PKHD1, is large (approximately 470 kb; 67 exons) with a 12222 bp longest open reading frame, although multiple different splice forms may be generated. The predicted full-length ARPKD protein, fibrocystin, is membrane bound with 4074 amino acids (447 kDa molecular weight). To characterize the pattern of fibrocystin expression we have generated four monoclonal antibodies (mAb) to the cytoplasmic tail of the protein. Western analysis of human kidney membrane protein showed an identical pattern with each mAb; a strongly expressing large product (>450 kDa), consistent with the predicted protein size, and a weaker approximately 220 kDa band. The same large product was detected in rat and mouse kidney with lower level expression in liver. To further show that these mAbs recognize fibrocystin, tissue from ARPKD patients was analyzed and no fibrocystin products were detected. Immunohistochemical analysis of the developing kidney showed expression in the branching ureteric bud and collecting ducts, expression that persisted into adulthood. Biliary duct staining was found in the liver, plus staining in the pancreas and developing testis. Immunofluorescence analysis of MDCK cells showed a major site of expression in the primary cilia. Recent studies have associated the disease protein in various human and animal forms of PKD with cilia. The localization of fibrocystin to cilia further strengthens that correlation and indicates that the primary defect in ARPKD may be linked to ciliary dysfunction.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / chemistry
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Line
  • Cilia / metabolism*
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism
  • Dogs
  • Exons
  • Fibrosis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kidney / embryology
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Polycystic Kidney, Autosomal Recessive / genetics*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / biosynthesis*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • PKHD1 protein, human
  • Receptors, Cell Surface