The Kidney in Bardet-Biedl Syndrome: Possible Pathogenesis of Urine Concentrating Defect

Kidney Dis (Basel). 2017 Jul;3(2):57-65. doi: 10.1159/000475500. Epub 2017 May 17.


Background: The ciliopathies are a growing number of disorders caused by mutations in genes involved in the function of the primary cilium. Bardet-Biedl syndrome (BBS) belongs to this group of disorders. In this setting, kidney dysfunction is highly variable, and urine concentrating defect, a common feature of multiple ciliopathies, has been described as the most frequent defect. Here we review the mechanism of urine concentration and describe the possible mechanism underling this defect in ciliopathies and especially BBS, based on the current body of literature.

Summary: Active Na+ absorption along the thick ascending limb of the loop of Henle (TAL) is critical for generating the corticomedullary osmotic gradient, and the countercurrent anatomical arrangement of the 2 branches of the loop of Henle enhances this gradient. The vasa recta, paralleling the loop of Henle, operate into the countercurrent mechanism, minimizing washout of solutes from the interstitium. Final water reabsorption is mediated by the aquaporin 2 (AQP2) water channels along the distal nephron, and it is under hormonal control. Several studies demonstrated that hyposthenuria in BBS patients relies on kidney resistance to desmopressin, suggesting a renal origin. We recently showed that the majority of hyposthenuric BBS patients have also a defect regarding maximal urine dilution. Independent studies showed that BBS10 deficiency caused AQP2 mistrafficking in vitro; accordingly, we demonstrated impaired urinary AQP2 excretion in BBS patients with combined concentrating and diluting defect. Whether receptor signaling pathways or downstream events cause AQP2 deregulation is still unclear. In addition, reduced urinary uromodulin excretion in BBS patients opens the possibility that TAL dysfunction may also play a pathogenic role.

Key message: Impaired water handling in BBS is associated with AQP2 mistrafficking. The potential role of additional factors, such as the dissipation of the medullary osmotic gradient due to TAL dysfunction and/or structural anomalies, remains to be elucidated.

Keywords: Aquaporin 2; Bardet-Biedl syndrome; Hyposthenuria; Uromodulin.

Publication types

  • Review