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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Systems biology approach to identify transcriptome reprogramming and candidate microRNA targets during the progression of polycystic kidney disease

Priyanka Pandey1, Shan Qin1, Jacqueline Ho2, Jing Zhou3 and Jordan A Kreidberg14*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Medicine, Children's Hospital Boston; Department of Pediatrics, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, 02115, USA

2 Current address: Division of Nephrology, Department of Pediatrics, University of Pittsburg School of Medicine, Pittsburg, PA, 15224, USA

3 Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School. Boston, MA, 02115, USA

4 Harvard Stem Cell Institute, Cambridge, MA, 02138, USA

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BMC Systems Biology 2011, 5:56  doi:10.1186/1752-0509-5-56

Published: 25 April 2011



Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is characterized by cyst formation throughout the kidney parenchyma. It is caused by mutations in either of two genes, PKD1 and PKD2. Mice that lack functional Pkd1 (Pkd1-/-), develop rapidly progressive cystic disease during embryogenesis, and serve as a model to study human ADPKD. Genome wide transcriptome reprogramming and the possible roles of micro-RNAs (miRNAs) that affect the initiation and progression of cyst formation in the Pkd1-/- have yet to be studied. miRNAs are small, regulatory non-coding RNAs, implicated in a wide spectrum of biological processes. Their expression levels are altered in several diseases including kidney cancer, diabetic nephropathy and PKD.


We examined the molecular pathways that modulate renal cyst formation and growth in the Pkd1-/- model by performing global gene-expression profiling in embryonic kidneys at days 14.5 and 17.5. Gene Ontology and gene set enrichment analysis were used to identify overrepresented signaling pathways in Pkd1-/- kidneys. We found dysregulation of developmental, metabolic, and signaling pathways (e.g. Wnt, calcium, TGF-β and MAPK) in Pkd1-/- kidneys. Using a comparative transcriptomics approach, we determined similarities and differences with human ADPKD: ~50% overlap at the pathway level among the mis-regulated pathways was observed. By using computational approaches (TargetScan, miRanda, microT and miRDB), we then predicted miRNAs that were suggested to target the differentially expressed mRNAs. Differential expressions of 9 candidate miRNAs, miRs-10a, -30a-5p, -96, -126-5p, -182, -200a, -204, -429 and -488, and 16 genes were confirmed by qPCR. In addition, 14 candidate miRNA:mRNA reciprocal interactions were predicted. Several of the highly regulated genes and pathways were predicted as targets of miRNAs.


We have described global transcriptional reprogramming during the progression of PKD in the Pkd1-/- model. We propose a model for the cascade of signaling events involved in cyst formation and growth. Our results suggest that several miRNAs may be involved in regulating signaling pathways in ADPKD. We further describe novel putative miRNA:mRNA signatures in ADPKD, which will provide additional insights into the pathogenesis of this common genetic disease in humans.