Polycystin 1 is required for the structural integrity of blood vessels.
Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD), often caused by mutations in the PKD1 gene, is associated with life-threatening vascular abnormalities that are commonly attributed to the frequent occurrence of hypertension. A previously reported targeted mutation of the mouse homologue of PKD1 was not associated with vascular fragility, leading to the suggestion that the vascular lesion may be of a secondary nature. Here we demonstrate a primary role of PKD1 mutations in vascular fragility. Mouse embryos homozygous for the mutant allele (Pkd1(L)) exhibit s.c. edema, vascular leaks, and rupture of blood vessels, culminating in embryonic lethality at embryonic day 15.5. Kidney and pancreatic ductal cysts are present. The Pkd1-encoded protein, mouse polycystin 1, was detected in normal endothelium and the surrounding vascular smooth muscle cells. These data reveal a requisite role for polycystin 1 in maintaining the structural integrity of the vasculature as well as epithelium and suggest that the nature of the PKD1 mutation contributes to the phenotypic variance in ADPKD.