The zebrafish pronephros: a model to study nephron segmentation

Kidney Int. 2008 May;73(10):1120-7. doi: 10.1038/ki.2008.37. Epub 2008 Mar 5.


Nephrons possess a segmental organization where each segment is specialized for the secretion and reabsorption of particular solutes. The developmental control of nephron segment patterning remains one of the enigmas within the field of renal biology. Achieving an understanding of the mechanisms that direct nephron segmentation has the potential to shed light on the causes of kidney birth defects and renal diseases in humans. Researchers studying embryonic kidney development in zebrafish and Xenopus have recently demonstrated that the pronephric nephrons in these vertebrates are segmented in a similar fashion as their mammalian counterparts. Further, it has been shown that retinoic acid signaling establishes proximodistal segment identities in the zebrafish pronephros by modulating the expression of renal transcription factors and components of signaling pathways that are known to direct segment fates during mammalian nephrogenesis. These findings present the zebrafish model as an excellent genetic system in which to interrogate the conserved developmental pathways that control nephron segmentation in both lower vertebrates and mammals.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Models, Animal
  • Nephrons / embryology*
  • Organogenesis
  • Tretinoin / physiology
  • Zebrafish / embryology*


  • Tretinoin