Developmental plasticity and regenerative capacity in the renal ureteric bud/collecting duct system

Derina Sweeney, Nils Lindström, Jamie A. Davies

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Branching morphogenesis of epithelia is an important mechanism in animal development, being responsible for the characteristic architectures of glandular organs such as kiDney, lung, prostate and salivary gland. In these systems, new branches usually arise at the tips of existing branches. Recent studies, particularly in kidney, have shown that tip cells express a set of genes distinct from those in the stalks. Tip cells also undergo most cell proliferation, daughter cells either remaining in the tip or being left behind as the tips advance, to differentiate and contribute to new stalk. Published time-lapse observations have suggested, though, that new branches may be able to arise from stalks. This happens so rarely, however, that it is not clear whether this reflects true plasticity and reversal of differentiation, or whether it is just an occasional instance of groups of tip cells being 'left behind' by error in a mainly stalk zone. To determine whether cells that have differentiated into stalks really do retain the ability to make new tips, we have removed existing tips from stalks, verified that the stalks are free of tip cells, and assessed the ability of tip-free stalks to initiate new branches. We find stalks to be fully capable of regenerating tips that express typical tip markers, with these tips going on to form epithelial trees, at high frequency. The transition from tip to stalk is therefore reversible, at least for early stages of development. This observation has major implications for models of pattern formation in branching trees, and may also be important for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2505-2510
Number of pages6
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Branching
  • Kidney
  • Regeneration
  • Stem cell
  • Ureteric bud

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Developmental Biology


Dive into the research topics of 'Developmental plasticity and regenerative capacity in the renal ureteric bud/collecting duct system'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this