The zebrafish kidney is conserved with other vertebrates, making it an excellent genetic model to study renal development. The kidney collects metabolic waste using a blood filter with specialized epithelial cells known as podocytes. Podocyte formation is poorly understood but relevant to many kidney diseases, as podocyte injury leads to progressive scarring and organ failure. zeppelin (zep) was isolated in a forward screen for kidney mutants and identified as a homozygous recessive lethal allele that causes reduced podocyte numbers, deficient filtration, and fluid imbalance. Interestingly, zep mutants had a larger interrenal gland, the teleostean counterpart of the mammalian adrenal gland, which suggested a fate switch with the related podocyte lineage since cell proliferation and cell death were unchanged within the shared progenitor field from which these two identities arise. Cloning of zep by whole genome sequencing (WGS) identified a splicing mutation in breast cancer 2, early onset (brca2)/fancd1, which was confirmed by sequencing of individual fish. Several independent brca2 morpholinos (MOs) phenocopied zep, causing edema, reduced podocyte number, and increased interrenal cell number. Complementation analysis between zep and brca2ZM_00057434 -/- zebrafish, which have an insertional mutation, revealed that the interrenal lineage was expanded. Importantly, overexpression of brca2 rescued podocyte formation in zep mutants, providing critical evidence that the brca2 lesion encoded by zep specifically disrupts the balance of nephrogenesis. Taken together, these data suggest for the first time that brca2/fancd1 is essential for vertebrate kidney ontogeny. Thus, our findings impart novel insights into the genetic components that impact renal development, and because BRCA2/FANCD1 mutations in humans cause Fanconi anemia and several common cancers, this work has identified a new zebrafish model to further study brca2/fancd1 in disease.
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