Human and mouse studies establish TBX6 in Mendelian CAKUT and as a potential driver of kidney defects associated with the 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome

Kidney Int. 2020 Oct;98(4):1020-1030. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2020.04.045. Epub 2020 May 22.


Congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUTs) are the most common cause of chronic kidney disease in children. Human 16p11.2 deletions have been associated with CAKUT, but the responsible molecular mechanism remains to be illuminated. To explore this, we investigated 102 carriers of 16p11.2 deletion from multi-center cohorts, among which we retrospectively ascertained kidney morphologic and functional data from 37 individuals (12 Chinese and 25 Caucasian/Hispanic). Significantly higher CAKUT rates were observed in 16p11.2 deletion carriers (about 25% in Chinese and 16% in Caucasian/Hispanic) than those found in the non-clinically ascertained general populations (about 1/1000 found at autopsy). Furthermore, we identified seven additional individuals with heterozygous loss-of-function variants in TBX6, a gene that maps to the 16p11.2 region. Four of these seven cases showed obvious CAKUT. To further investigate the role of TBX6 in kidney development, we engineered mice with mutated Tbx6 alleles. The Tbx6 heterozygous null (i.e., loss-of-function) mutant (Tbx6+/‒) resulted in 13% solitary kidneys. Remarkably, this incidence increased to 29% in a compound heterozygous model (Tbx6mh/‒) that reduced Tbx6 gene dosage to below haploinsufficiency, by combining the null allele with a novel mild hypomorphic allele (mh). Renal hypoplasia was also frequently observed in these Tbx6-mutated mouse models. Thus, our findings in patients and mice establish TBX6 as a novel gene involved in CAKUT and its gene dosage insufficiency as a potential driver for kidney defects observed in the 16p11.2 microdeletion syndrome.

Keywords: 16p11.2 deletion; CNV; allelic series; compound inheritance; gene dosage; gene expression; kidney development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Kidney
  • Mice
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scoliosis*
  • T-Box Domain Proteins / genetics
  • Urogenital Abnormalities
  • Vesico-Ureteral Reflux


  • T-Box Domain Proteins
  • TBX6 protein, human
  • Tbx6 protein, mouse

Supplementary concepts

  • Cakut