Although most nephron segments contain one type of epithelial cell, the collecting ducts consists of at least two: intercalated (IC) and principal (PC) cells, which regulate acid-base and salt-water homeostasis, respectively. In adult kidneys, these cells are organized in rosettes suggesting functional interactions. Genetic studies in mouse revealed that transcription factor Tfcp2l1 coordinates IC and PC development. Tfcp2l1 induces the expression of IC specific genes, including specific H+-ATPase subunits and Jag1. Jag1 in turn, initiates Notch signaling in PCs but inhibits Notch signaling in ICs. Tfcp2l1 inactivation deletes ICs, whereas Jag1 inactivation results in the forfeiture of discrete IC and PC identities. Thus, Tfcp2l1 is a critical regulator of IC-PC patterning, acting cell-autonomously in ICs, and non-cell-autonomously in PCs. As a result, Tfcp2l1 regulates the diversification of cell types which is the central characteristic of 'salt and pepper' epithelia and distinguishes the collecting duct from all other nephron segments.
Keywords: Jag1; Tfcp2l1; cell biology; collecting duct; developmental biology; intercalated cells; kidney; mouse; principal cells; stem cells.