Unravelling the genetics of vesicoureteric reflux: a common familial disorder

Hum Mol Genet. 1996;5 Spec No:1425-9. doi: 10.1093/hmg/5.supplement_1.1425.


Primary vesicoureteric reflux (VUR) is one of the more common genetic disorders. Little is yet known about the genetics of this potentially manageable childhood condition, which is characterised by regurgitation of urine from the bladder to the kidney. The VUR phenotype is associated with shortness of the submucosal segment of the ureter due to congenital lateral ectopia of the ureteric orifice. VUR is found in 30-50% of infants and young children with a urinary tract infection. A serious concern in families with an affected patient is that approximately one half of siblings or offspring will be affected, but up to a half of these affected siblings and offspring may be asymptomatic in childhood. If left untreated, these patients may present later in life with proteinuria, hypertension or renal failure. VUR is the commonest cause of end-stage renal failure in children, and an important cause in adults. As the kidney damage resulting from severe VUR is preventable, early detection is desirable. The techniques for clinical diagnosis are invasive and costly, reinforcing the importance of identification of a gene for VUR to facilitate genetic screening. Although family studies suggest a major dominant gene, the inheritance pattern is still a matter of debate. In rare instances, VUR occurs in association with other diseases, such as the coloboma-ureteric-renal syndrome, which is caused by a PAX2 gene mutation. In this review, we present evidence that this common disorder may be caused by mutations in the developmental pathway of which the PAX2 gene forms a part.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Forecasting
  • Humans
  • PAX2 Transcription Factor
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Vesico-Ureteral Reflux / complications
  • Vesico-Ureteral Reflux / genetics*
  • Vesico-Ureteral Reflux / physiopathology


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • PAX2 Transcription Factor
  • PAX2 protein, human
  • Transcription Factors