Autosomal-dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is one of the most common human monogenic diseases with an incidence of 1:400 to 1:1000. It is characterized by the progressive development and enlargement of focal cysts in both kidneys, typically resulting in end-stage renal disease (ESRD) by the fifth decade. The cystogenic process is highly complex with a cellular phenotype consistent with "dedifferentiation" (i.e., a high proliferative rate, increased apoptosis, altered protein sorting, changed secretory characteristics, and disorganization of the extracellular matrix). Although cystic renal disease is the major cause of morbidity, the occurrence of nonrenal cysts, most notably in the liver (occasionally resulting in clinically significant polycystic liver disease) and the increased prevalence of other abnormalities including intracranial aneurysms, indicate that ADPKD is a systemic disorder. Following the identification of the first ADPKD gene, PKD1, 10 years ago and PKD2 2 years later, considerable progress has been made in defining the etiology and understanding the pathogenesis of this disorder, knowledge that is now leading to the development of several promising new therapies. The purpose of this review is to summarize our current state of knowledge as to the structure and function of the PKD1 and PKD2 proteins, polycystin-1 and -2, respectively, and explore how mutation at these loci results in the spectrum of changes seen in ADPKD.
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