The coordinated development of the mesenchymal and epithelial progenitors of the murine ureter depends on a complex interplay of diverse signaling activities. We have recently shown that epithelial FGFR2 signaling regulates stratification and differentiation of the epithelial compartment by enhancing epithelial Shh expression, and mesenchymal SHH and BMP4 activity. Here, we show that FGFR1 and FGFR2 expression in the mesenchymal primordium impinges on the SHH/BMP4 signaling axis to regulate mesenchymal patterning and differentiation. Mouse embryos with conditional loss of Fgfr1 and Fgfr2 in the ureteric mesenchyme exhibited reduced mesenchymal proliferation and prematurely activated lamina propria formation at the expense of the smooth muscle cell program. They also manifested hydroureter at birth. Molecular profiling detected increased SHH, WNT and retinoic acid signaling, whereas BMP4 signaling in the mesenchyme was reduced. Pharmacological activation of SHH signaling in combination with inhibition of BMP4 signaling recapitulated the cellular changes in explant cultures of wild-type ureters. Additional experiments suggest that mesenchymal FGFR1 and FGFR2 act as a sink for FGF ligands to dampen activation of Shh and BMP receptor gene expression by epithelial FGFR2 signaling.

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