Wilms’ tumour is a paediatric kidney malignancy that arises through aberrant differentiation of nephric stem cells. We are studying the role of one Wilms’ tumour pre-disposition gene, WT1. This is a tumour suppressor gene whose function is required for normal development of the genitourinary system. WT1 encodes a putative transcriptional repressor of the zinc finger family. Here we discuss how one of the normal functions of WT1 may be to suppress myogenesis during kidney development. Furthermore, we describe how we are proposing to use YAC (yeast artificial chromosome) transgenesis to analyse WT1 regulation and function in mice. We also discuss the evolution of the WT1 gene amongst different vertebrate classes and how this may provide insights into genitourinary evolution.

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