The mouse lymph node (LN) can provide a niche to grow metanephric kidney to maturity. Here, we show that signaling through the lymphotoxin-β receptor (LTβR) is critical for kidney organogenesis both in the LN and the omentum. By transplanting kidney rudiments either in the LNs of mice undergoing LTβR antagonist treatment or in the omenta of Ltbr knockout (Ltbr-/-) mice, the host LTβR signals were found to be crucial for obtaining a well-vascularized kidney graft. Indeed, defective LTβR signaling correlated with decreased expression of endothelial and angiogenic markers in kidney grafts as well as structural alterations. Because the number of glomerular endothelial cells expressing the LTβR target nuclear factor κB-inducing kinase (NIK) decreased in the absence of a functional LTβR, it was speculated that an LTβR/NIK axis mediated the angiogenetic signals required for successful ectopic kidney organogenesis, given the established role of NIK in neovascularization. However, the transplantation of kidney rudiments in omenta of Nik-/- mice revealed that NIK is dispensable for ectopic kidney vascular integration and maturation. Finally, defective LTβR signaling impaired compensatory glomerular adaptation to renal mass reduction, indicating that kidney regeneration approaches, besides whole kidney reconstruction, might benefit from the presence of LTβR signals.
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