Background: Development of the kidney is initiated when the ureteric bud (UB) branches from the Wolffian duct and invades the overlying metanephric mesenchyme (MM) triggering the mesenchymal/epithelial interactions that are the basis of organ formation. Multiple signaling pathways must be integrated to ensure proper timing and location of the ureteric bud formation. Methods and Principal Findings: We have used gene targeting to create an Lrp4 null mouse line. The mutation results in early embryonic lethality with a subpenetrant phenotype of kidney agenesis. Ureteric budding is delayed with a failure to stimulate the metanephric mesenchyme in a timely manner, resulting in failure of cellular differentiation and resulting absence of kidney formation in the mouse as well as comparable malformations in humans with Cenani-Lenz syndrome. Conclusion: Lrp4 is a multi-functional receptor implicated in the regulation of several molecular pathways, including Wnt and Bmp signaling. Lrp4-/- mice show a delay in ureteric bud formation that results in unilateral or bilateral kidney agenesis. These data indicate that Lrp4 is a critical regulator of UB branching and lack of Lrp4 results in congenital kidney malformations in humans and mice.
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