Current techniques to morphologically characterize the processes of nephrogenesis and ureteric branching during kidney development have many limitations. Here, we used in vivo three-dimensional analysis to study renal development in mice lacking fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 in the ureteric bud (Fgfr2UB-/-) and in littermate controls. We found that Fgfr2 UB-/- mice have more severe defects in ureteric branching morphogenesis than previously reported, including significantly fewer branches and tips than control mice. Furthermore, these mice had decreased ureteric volume and surface area and longer ureteric segments than control mice. We also observed previously unrecognized abnormalities in nephrogenesis, including a gradual increase in volume and surface area during maturation from renal vesicles to mature nephrons, in the mutant mice. Finally, we quantified many events of normal renal development that are either difficult or impossible to measure without this three-dimensional technique. In summary, the three-dimensional approach is a powerful and quantitative means to characterize branching morphogenesis and nephrogenesis.
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