The Wnt gene family, which encodes secreted growth and differentiation factors, has been implicated in kidney organogenesis. The Wnts control both ureteric bud development and signaling, but they also serve as inductive factors to regulate nephrogenesis in the mesenchcymal cells. Several of the Wnt genes are expressed in the developing kidney, and gene knock-out studies have revealed specific developmental functions for these. Consistent with this, changes in Wnt ligands and pathway components are associated with many kidney diseases, including kidney cancers, renal fibrosis, cystic kidney diseases, acute renal failure, diabetic nephropathy and ischaemic injury. It is these associations of the Wnt signaling system with kidney development and kidney diseases that form to topic of this review.
Keywords: Wnt signaling; kidney cancer; kidney diseases; tubule induction; ureter development.