Renal cystogenesis is the pathological hallmark of autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, caused by PKD1 and PKD2 mutations. The formation of renal cysts is a common manifestation in ciliopathies, a group of syndromic disorders caused by mutation of proteins involved in the assembly and function of the primary cilium. Cystogenesis is caused by the derailment of the renal tubular architecture and tissue deformation that eventually leads to the impairment of kidney function. However, the biomechanical imbalance of cytoskeletal forces that are altered in cells with Pkd1 mutations has never been investigated, and its nature and extent remain unknown. In this computational study, we explored the feasibility of various biomechanical drivers of renal cystogenesis by examining several hypothetical mechanisms that may promote morphogenetic markers of cystogenesis. Our objective was to provide physics-based guidance for our formulation of hypotheses and our design of experimental studies investigating the role of biomechanical disequilibrium in cystogenesis. We employed the finite element method to explore the role of (1) wild-type versus mutant cell elastic modulus; (2) contractile stress magnitude in mutant cells; (3) localization and orientation of contractile stress in mutant cells; and (4) sequence of cell contraction and cell proliferation. Our objective was to identify the factors that produce the characteristic tubular cystic growth. Results showed that cystogenesis occurred only when mutant cells contracted along the apical-basal axis, followed or accompanied by cell proliferation, as long as mutant cells had comparable or lower elastic modulus than wild-type cells, with their contractile stresses being significantly greater than their modulus. Results of these simulations allow us to focus future in vitro and in vivo experimental studies on these factors, helping us formulate physics-based hypotheses for renal tubule cystogenesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1113-1127
Number of pages15
JournalBiomechanics and Modeling in Mechanobiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Cystogenesis
  • Finite element modeling
  • Growth and remodeling
  • Polycystic kidney disease


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