Evidence of In Vitro Preservation of Human Nephrogenesis at the Single-Cell Level

Stem Cell Reports. 2017 Jul 11;9(1):279-291. doi: 10.1016/j.stemcr.2017.04.026. Epub 2017 May 25.


During nephrogenesis, stem/progenitor cells differentiate and give rise to early nephron structures that segment to proximal and distal nephron cell types. Previously, we prospectively isolated progenitors from human fetal kidney (hFK) utilizing a combination of surface markers. However, upon culture nephron progenitors differentiated and could not be robustly maintained in vitro. Here, by culturing hFK in a modified medium used for in vitro growth of mouse nephron progenitors, and by dissection of NCAM+/CD133- progenitor cells according to EpCAM expression (NCAM+/CD133-/EpCAM-, NCAM+/CD133-/EpCAMdim, NCAM+/CD133-/EpCAMbright), we show at single-cell resolution a preservation of uninduced and induced cap mesenchyme as well as a transitioning mesenchymal-epithelial state. Concomitantly, differentiating and differentiated epithelial lineages are also maintained. In vitro expansion of discrete stages of early human nephrogenesis in nephron stem cell cultures may be used for drug screening on a full repertoire of developing kidney cells and for prospective isolation of mesenchymal or epithelial renal lineages for regenerative medicine.

Keywords: Wilms' tumor; cancer stem cells; kidney stem/progenitor cells; renal development; single cell gene expression analysis; stem cell markers; stem cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • AC133 Antigen / analysis
  • Cell Culture Techniques
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule / analysis
  • Human Embryonic Stem Cells / cytology*
  • Humans
  • Kidney / cytology*
  • Nephrons / cytology*
  • Nephrons / growth & development*
  • Organogenesis
  • Single-Cell Analysis


  • AC133 Antigen
  • Epithelial Cell Adhesion Molecule