The murine kidney and ureter develop in a regionalized fashion from the ureteric bud and its surrounding mesenchyme. Whereas the factors that establish the metanephric cell lineages have been well characterized, much less is known about the molecular cues that specify the ureter. Here, we have identified a crucial patterning function in this process for Tbx18, a T-box transcription factor gene specifically expressed in the mesenchymal primordium of the ureter. Using misexpression and loss-of-function mice combined with molecular profiling approaches, we show that Tbx18 is required and sufficient to repress metanephric mesenchymal gene programs. We identify Wt1 as a functional target of TBX18. Our work suggests that TBX18 acts as a permissive factor in ureter specification by generating a mesenchymal domain around the distal ureteric bud where SHH and BMP4 signaling can occur.

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