LFB1 (HNF-1/HNF-1 alpha/APF) and LFB3 (vHNF-1/HNF-1 beta) are two homeoproteins involved in the transcriptional regulation of several liver-specific genes. Both genes are expressed in the polarized epithelia of a wide range of tissues, including liver, the digestive tract and kidney. We have analyzed the expression pattern of LFB1 and LFB3 in the developing rat kidney by in situ hybridization. Our results show that LFB3 transcripts can be detected in mesoderm-derived cells as soon as they are induced to differentiate into a polarized epithelium, while LFB1 transcripts appear only at a later stage when the three different segments of the nephron become apparent. LFB1 transcripts are restricted to the proximal and distal tubules, whereas LFB3 is also detected in the collecting ducts. Neither LFB1 nor LFB3 are expressed in the glomeruli or in the transition epithelia of the ureters and of the urinary bladder, none of which are involved in active transport mechanisms. The sequential activation of these two genes is also observed in transfilter organ cultures of nephrogenic mesenchyme at different stages after induction. This expression pattern suggests that LFB3 and LFB1 play a role in two critical stages of the developmentally regulated conversion of the nephric mesenchyme into a polarized epithelium: the early inductory phase (LFB3) and the postinductory phase (LFB1+LFB3).

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