Biallelic pathogenic variants in roundabout guidance receptor 1 associate with syndromic congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract

Kidney Int. 2022 May;101(5):1039-1053. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2022.01.028. Epub 2022 Feb 26.


Congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT) represent the most common cause of chronic kidney failure in children. Despite growing knowledge of the genetic causes of CAKUT, the majority of cases remain etiologically unsolved. Genetic alterations in roundabout guidance receptor 1 (ROBO1) have been associated with neuronal and cardiac developmental defects in living individuals. Although Slit-Robo signaling is pivotal for kidney development, diagnostic ROBO1 variants have not been reported in viable CAKUT to date. By next-generation-sequencing methods, we identified six unrelated individuals and two non-viable fetuses with biallelic truncating or combined missense and truncating variants in ROBO1. Kidney and genitourinary manifestation included unilateral or bilateral kidney agenesis, vesicoureteral junction obstruction, vesicoureteral reflux, posterior urethral valve, genital malformation, and increased kidney echogenicity. Further clinical characteristics were remarkably heterogeneous, including neurodevelopmental defects, intellectual impairment, cerebral malformations, eye anomalies, and cardiac defects. By in silico analysis, we determined the functional significance of identified missense variants and observed absence of kidney ROBO1 expression in both human and murine mutant tissues. While its expression in multiple tissues may explain heterogeneous organ involvement, variability of the kidney disease suggests gene dosage effects due to a combination of null alleles with mild hypomorphic alleles. Thus, comprehensive genetic analysis in CAKUT should include ROBO1 as a new cause of recessively inherited disease. Hence, in patients with already established ROBO1-associated cardiac or neuronal disorders, screening for kidney involvement is indicated.

Keywords: CAKUT; ROBO1; Slit-Robo signaling; VUR; dysplastic kidneys.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Child
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney / pathology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / genetics*
  • Receptors, Immunologic / genetics*
  • Urinary Tract* / pathology
  • Urogenital Abnormalities* / diagnosis
  • Urogenital Abnormalities* / genetics
  • Vesico-Ureteral Reflux* / diagnosis


  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Receptors, Immunologic
  • roundabout protein

Supplementary concepts

  • Cakut