Mammalian kidney morphogenesis begins when the ureteric bud (UB) induces surrounding metanephric mesenchyme to differentiate into nephrons, the functional units of the mature organ. Although several genes required for this process have been identified, the mechanisms that control final nephron number and the localization of distinct tubular segments to cortical and medullary zones of the kidney remain poorly understood. This finding is due, in part, to the lack of quantitative studies describing the acquisition of mature renal structure. We have analyzed the following parameters of the developing murine kidney throughout embryogenesis: nephron and UB tip number, distance between UB branch points and total kidney, and cortical and medullary volume. Results of this morphometric analysis reveal previously unrecognized changes in the pattern of UB growth and rate of nephrogenesis. In addition, this morphometric index provides a much-needed reference for accurately describing renal patterning defects exhibited by genetically altered mice.
(c) 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.