The kidney contains the functional units, the nephrons, surrounded by the renal interstitium. Previously we discovered that, once Six2-expressing nephron progenitor cells and Foxd1-expressing renal interstitial progenitor cells form at the onset of kidney development, descendant cells from these populations contribute exclusively to the main body of nephrons and renal interstitial tissues, respectively, indicating a lineage boundary between the nephron and renal interstitial compartments. Currently it is unclear how lineages are regulated during kidney organogenesis. We demonstrate that nephron progenitor cells lacking Pax2 fail to differentiate into nephron cells but can switch fates into renal interstitium-like cell types. These data suggest that Pax2 function maintains nephron progenitor cells by repressing a renal interstitial cell program. Thus, the lineage boundary between the nephron and renal interstitial compartments is maintained by the Pax2 activity in nephron progenitor cells during kidney organogenesis.
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