Distinct and sequential tissue-specific activities of the LIM-class homeobox gene Lim1 for tubular morphogenesis during kidney development.
Kidney organogenesis requires the morphogenesis of epithelial tubules. Inductive interactions between the branching ureteric buds and the metanephric mesenchyme lead to mesenchyme-to-epithelium transitions and tubular morphogenesis to form nephrons, the functional units of the kidney. The LIM-class homeobox gene Lim1 is expressed in the intermediate mesoderm, nephric duct, mesonephric tubules, ureteric bud, pretubular aggregates and their derivatives. Lim1-null mice lack kidneys because of a failure of nephric duct formation, precluding studies of the role of Lim1 at later stages of kidney development. Here, we show that Lim1 functions in distinct tissue compartments of the developing metanephros for both proper development of the ureteric buds and the patterning of renal vesicles for nephron formation. These observations suggest that Lim1 has essential roles in multiple steps of epithelial tubular morphogenesis during kidney organogenesis. We also demonstrate that the nephric duct is essential for the elongation and maintenance of the adjacent Mullerian duct, the anlage of the female reproductive tract.