Mapping of the fate of cell lineages generated from cells that express the Wnt4 gene by time-lapse during kidney development

Differentiation. 2010 Jan;79(1):57-64. doi: 10.1016/j.diff.2009.08.006. Epub 2009 Sep 9.


The Wnt4 gene encodes a secreted signaling molecule controlling the development of several organs, such as the kidney, adrenal gland, ovary, mammary gland and pituitary gland. It is thought to act in the embryonic kidney as an auto-inducer of nephrogenesis controlling mesenchyme-to-epithelium transition, and Wnt4-deficient mice die soon after birth, probably of kidney failure. Given the requirement for Wnt4 signaling in the control of organogenesis, the targeting of Cre recombinase under the control of the Wnt4 promoter would provide a valuable tool for fate mapping and functional genomics. We report here on the generation and characterization of a Wnt4(EGFPCre) knock-in allele where the EGFPCre fusion cDNA and Neo selection cassette were targeted into the Wnt4 locus. EGFP-derived fluorescence was observed in the pretubular aggregates of the E14.5 embryonic kidney that normally express Wnt4 mRNA. Characterization of the pattern of recombination of the floxed Rosa26(LacZ) reporter with the Wnt4(EGFPCre) allele revealed that in addition to the embryonic kidney, reporter-derived staining was observed in the embryonic gonad, spinal cord, lung and adrenal gland, i.e. the sites of Wnt4 gene expression. Time-lapse fate mapping of the Wnt4(EGFPCre)-activated yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) from the Rosa26 locus in organ culture revealed that the cells that had expressed the Wnt4 gene contributed to the nephrons, some of the cells around the stalk of the developing ureter and also certain presumptive medullary stromal cells. Moreover, the time-lapse movies suggested that the first few pretubular cell aggregates may not mature into nephrons but instead appear to disintegrate. In association with this, Rosa26(YFP)-positive stromal cells emerge around these disintegrating structures. Such cells may be transient, since their derivatives are neither detected later in the more mature kidney nor is there an overlap of the Wnt4(EGFPCre); Rosa26(LacZ)-marked cells with those of the endothelial cells, the smooth muscle cells or the macrophages. The Wnt4(EGFPCre) allele provides a useful new tool for conditional mutagenesis and provides the first time-lapse-based map of the fate of nephron precursor cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation*
  • Cell Lineage*
  • Embryo, Mammalian / cytology
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / ultrastructure*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental*
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Integrases
  • Kidney / embryology*
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Luminescent Proteins / genetics
  • Luminescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Wnt Proteins / metabolism*
  • Wnt4 Protein


  • Luminescent Proteins
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Wnt Proteins
  • Wnt4 Protein
  • Wnt4 protein, mouse
  • Cre recombinase
  • Integrases