Tulp3 Is a Ciliary Trafficking Gene that Regulates Polycystic Kidney Disease

Curr Biol. 2019 Mar 4;29(5):803-812.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.cub.2019.01.054. Epub 2019 Feb 21.


The primary cilium is an organelle essential for cell signaling pathways. One of the most common human genetic diseases is autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), which is caused by mutations in the PKD1 or PKD2 genes that encode Polycystin 1 and 2 (PC1/2), transmembrane proteins that translocate to the cilium. Mutations in genes that disrupt ciliogenesis also cause kidney cysts as part of a "ciliopathic" disease spectrum. The molecular mechanisms that link cilia function with renal cystic diseases are not well understood, and the mechanistic relationship between ADPKD and ciliopathic PKD is not known. Here we identify the gene Tubby-like protein-3 (Tulp3) as a key regulator of renal cystic disease from a forward genetic screen in the mouse. Mice homozygous for a hypomorphic missense mutation within the conserved Tubby domain of Tulp3 develop cysts at late embryonic stages, leading to severe postnatal loss of kidney function. In contrast to other ciliopathic disease models, Tulp3 mutations do not affect ciliogenesis. Instead, we demonstrate that Tulp3 is essential for the trafficking of the Joubert syndrome-associated small GTPase Arl13b into kidney cilia. We show that reduction of Pkd1 dosage promotes cystogenesis in the Tulp3 conditional ciliopathic PKD model. However, in an adult model of ADPKD utilizing inducible conditional Pkd1 deletion, concomitant removal of Tulp3 surprisingly ameliorates cystic disease. Therefore, Tulp3 controls distinct ciliary pathways that positively or negatively regulate cystogenesis depending on the cellular context.

Keywords: ADPKD; Arl13b; ENU; PKD; Pkd1; cilia; cilia-dependent cyst activation; ciliopathy; mouse; polycystin; tubby.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Female
  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / genetics*
  • Polycystic Kidney Diseases / metabolism
  • Protein Transport*


  • Intracellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Tulp3 protein, mouse