The spectrum of congenital anomalies affecting either the upper tract (kidneys and ureters) or lower tract (reproductive organs) of the genitourinary (GU) system are fundamentally linked by the developmental origin of multiple GU tissues, including the kidneys, gonads, and reproductive ductal systems: the intermediate mesoderm. Although ∼31% of DiGeorge/del22q11.2 syndrome patients exhibit GU defects, little focus has been placed on the molecular etiology of GU defects in this syndrome. Among del22q11.2 patients exhibiting GU anomalies, we have mapped the smallest relevant region to only five genes, including CRKLCRKL encodes a src-homology adaptor protein implicated in mediating tyrosine kinase signaling, and is expressed in the developing GU-tract in mice and humans. Here we show that Crkl mutant embryos exhibit gene dosage-dependent growth restriction, and homozygous mutants exhibit upper GU defects at a microdissection-detectable rate of 23%. RNA-sequencing revealed that 52 genes are differentially regulated in response to uncoupling Crkl from its signaling pathways in the developing kidney, including a fivefold up-regulation of Foxd1, a known regulator of nephron progenitor differentiation. Additionally, Crkl heterozygous adult males exhibit cryptorchidism, lower testis weight, lower sperm count, and subfertility. Together, these data indicate that CRKL is intimately involved in normal development of both the upper and lower GU tracts, and disruption of CRKL contributes to the high incidence of GU defects associated with deletion at 22q11.2.
Keywords: congenital defects; del22q11.2; genitourinary; haploinsufficient; urogenital.