Kidney side population reveals multilineage potential and renal functional capacity but also cellular heterogeneity

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2006 Jul;17(7):1896-912. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2005111228. Epub 2006 May 17.


Side population (SP) cells in the adult kidney are proposed to represent a progenitor population. However, the size, origin, phenotype, and potential of the kidney SP has been controversial. In this study, the SP fraction of embryonic and adult kidneys represented 0.1 to 0.2% of the total viable cell population. The immunophenotype and the expression profile of kidney SP cells was distinct from that of bone marrow SP cells, suggesting that they are a resident nonhematopoietic cell population. Affymetrix expression profiling implicated a role for Notch signaling in kidney SP cells and was used to identify markers of kidney SP. Localization by in situ hybridization confirmed a primarily proximal tubule location, supporting the existence of a tubular "niche," but also revealed considerable heterogeneity, including the presence of renal macrophages. Adult kidney SP cells demonstrated multilineage differentiation in vitro, whereas microinjection into mouse metanephroi showed that SP cells had a 3.5- to 13-fold greater potential to contribute to developing kidney than non-SP main population cells. However, although reintroduction of SP cells into an Adriamycin-nephropathy model reduced albuminuria:creatinine ratios, this was without significant tubular integration, suggesting a humoral role for SP cells in renal repair. The heterogeneity of the renal SP highlights the need for further fractionation to distinguish the cellular subpopulations that are responsible for the observed multilineage capacity and transdifferentiative and humoral activities.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Lineage
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Kidney / cytology*
  • Kidney / embryology
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / metabolism
  • Leukocyte Common Antigens / metabolism
  • Macrophages / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis
  • Phenotype
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Stem Cells / metabolism*


  • Leukocyte Common Antigens