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Zebrafish provide an excellent model in which to assess the role of the renin-angiotensin system in renal development, injury, and repair. In contrast to mammals, zebrafish kidney organogenesis terminates with the mesonephros. Despite this, the basic functional structure of the nephron is conserved across vertebrates. The relevance of teleosts for studies relating to the regulation of the renin-angiotensin system was established by assessing the phenotype and functional regulation of renin-expressing cells in zebrafish. Transgenic fluorescent reporters for renin (ren), smooth muscle actin (acta2), and platelet-derived growth factor receptor-beta (pdgfrb) were studied to determine the phenotype and secretory ultrastructure of perivascular renin-expressing cells. Whole kidney ren transcription responded to altered salinity, pharmacological renin-angiotensin system inhibition, and renal injury. Mesonephric ren-expressing cells occupied niches at the preglomerular arteries and afferent arterioles, forming intermittent epithelioid-like multicellular clusters exhibiting a granular secretory ultrastructure. In contrast, renin cells of the efferent arterioles were thin bodied and lacked secretory granules. Renin cells expressed the perivascular cell markers acta2 and pdgfrb Transcriptional responses of ren to physiological challenge support the presence of a functional renin-angiotensin system and are consistent with the production of active renin. The reparative capability of the zebrafish kidney was harnessed to demonstrate that ren transcription is a marker for renal injury and repair. Our studies demonstrate substantive conservation of renin regulation across vertebrates, and ultrastructural studies of renin cells reveal at least two distinct morphologies of mesonephric perivascular ren-expressing cells.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Physiol Renal Physiol

Publication Date





F778 - F790


kidney injury, perivascular, renin, renin-angiotensin system, zebrafish, Actins, Animals, Animals, Genetically Modified, Cell Shape, Gene Expression Regulation, Developmental, Genotype, Green Fluorescent Proteins, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Myocytes, Smooth Muscle, Pericytes, Phenotype, Receptor, Platelet-Derived Growth Factor beta, Recombinant Fusion Proteins, Renin, Renin-Angiotensin System, Transcription, Genetic, Wolffian Ducts, Zebrafish, Zebrafish Proteins