The mammalian kidney collecting ducts are critical for water, electrolyte and acid-base homeostasis and develop as a branched network of tubular structures composed of principal cells intermingled with intercalated cells. The intermingled nature of the different collecting duct cell types has made it challenging to identify unique and critical factors that mark and/or regulate the development of the different collecting duct cell lineages. Here we report that the canonical Notch signaling pathway components, RBPJ and Presinilin1 and 2, are involved in patterning the mouse collecting duct cell fates by maintaining a balance between principal cell and intercalated cell fates. The relatively reduced number of principal cells in Notch-signaling-deficient kidneys offered a unique genetic leverage to identify critical principal cell-enriched factors by transcriptional profiling. Elf5, which codes for an ETS transcription factor, is one such gene that is down-regulated in kidneys with Notch-signaling-deficient collecting ducts. Additionally, Elf5 is among the earliest genes up regulated by ectopic expression of activated Notch1 in the developing collecting ducts. In the kidney, Elf5 is first expressed early within developing collecting ducts and remains on in mature principal cells. Lineage tracing of Elf5-expressing cells revealed that they are committed to the principal cell lineage by as early as E16.5. Over-expression of ETS Class IIa transcription factors, including Elf5, Elf3 and Ehf, increase the transcriptional activity of the proximal promoters of Aqp2 and Avpr2 in cultured ureteric duct cell lines. Conditional inactivation of Elf5 in the developing collecting ducts results in a small but significant reduction in the expression levels of Aqp2 and Avpr2 genes. We have identified Elf5 as an early maker of the principal cell lineage that contributes to the expression of principal cell specific genes.
Keywords: Collecting ducts; Intercalated cell; Notch; RBPJ; Renal development.
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