Disruption of mitochondrial complex III in cap mesenchyme but not in ureteric progenitors results in defective nephrogenesis associated with amino acid deficiency

Kidney Int. 2022 Jul;102(1):108-120. doi: 10.1016/j.kint.2022.02.030. Epub 2022 Mar 24.


Oxidative metabolism in mitochondria regulates cellular differentiation and gene expression through intermediary metabolites and reactive oxygen species. Its role in kidney development and pathogenesis is not completely understood. Here we inactivated ubiquinone-binding protein QPC, a subunit of mitochondrial complex III, in two types of kidney progenitor cells to investigate the role of mitochondrial electron transport in kidney homeostasis. Inactivation of QPC in sine oculis-related homeobox 2 (SIX2)-expressing cap mesenchyme progenitors, which give rise to podocytes and all nephron segments except collecting ducts, resulted in perinatal death from severe kidney dysplasia. This was characterized by decreased proliferation of SIX2 progenitors and their failure to differentiate into kidney epithelium. QPC inactivation in cap mesenchyme progenitors induced activating transcription factor 4-mediated nutritional stress responses and was associated with a reduction in kidney tricarboxylic acid cycle metabolites and amino acid levels, which negatively impacted purine and pyrimidine synthesis. In contrast, QPC inactivation in ureteric tree epithelial cells, which give rise to the kidney collecting system, did not inhibit ureteric differentiation, and resulted in the development of functional kidneys that were smaller in size. Thus, our data demonstrate that mitochondrial oxidative metabolism is critical for the formation of cap mesenchyme-derived nephron segments but dispensable for formation of the kidney collecting system. Hence, our studies reveal compartment-specific needs for metabolic reprogramming during kidney development.

Keywords: TCA cycle; amino acids; kidney development; mitochondria; mitochondrial complex III; mitochondrial electron transport chain.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acids / deficiency
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Electron Transport Complex III* / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kidney* / embryology
  • Kidney* / metabolism
  • Mesoderm / metabolism
  • Nephrons* / metabolism
  • Organogenesis* / genetics
  • Podocytes* / metabolism
  • Pregnancy
  • Ureter / embryology


  • Amino Acids
  • Electron Transport Complex III