In geriatrics, chronic kidney disease and cardiovascular disease are common, closely related comorbidities, as one increases the risk for the other. For example, in the first year of dialysis the risk for a cardiovascular event increases 50% in patients with renal failure. Cardiovascular disease is still the major cause of death in the U.S., and the number of people with chronic kidney disease is rising dramatically.

We use mouse models to study the complex genetics of renal diseases to identify the risk factors and learn how we can reduce them. We do this through several different approaches, using both the natural genetic variation between the different inbred strains (linkage analysis and genome-wide association studies) and by inducing mutations both randomly (ENU-mutagenesis) and specifically (gene knockout). Once candidate genes are identified, we closely collaborate with the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory to further study candidate genes in zebrafish and C. elegans (http://www.mdibl.org/faculty/Ron_Korstanje/368/). With this multi-species strategy, we are streamlining the process of narrowing candidate gene lists and focusing our powerful mouse genetic resources on only the most likely candidate genes. This strategy will speed mammalian gene identification and the development of clinical treatments, and it will also serve as a template for identification of genes related to other diseases.

Scientific report

Genes that are involved in aging related kidney disease

Genetic mapping in aging populations
The presence of albumin in the urine (albuminuria) is an important marker for renal damage. We measured albuminuria in 28 inbred strains at 6, 12, 18, and 24 months of age and used this data for association with genetic loci. We identified 16 loci, of which 4 were confirmed in human, by association studies in populations with renal disease. In addition to measuring albuminuria, we now use the kidneys from the aged mice to look at histological changes. For example, mesangial matrix expansion (MME) is a characteristic in chronic kidney disease and we identified the strains that show MME in the males at 20 months of age. We found that the strains with MME have a 9bp sequence in the promoter of a gene called Far2 in common and that their Far2 expression is two-fold higher compared to the strains without MME. Preliminary studies in cell cultures show that the 9bp sequence is responsible for the expression difference and that overexpression of the gene causes MME.

Testing candidate genes in zebrafish and C. elegans
A common strategy to test whether candidate genes found in the above studies are causing cardiovascular, renal, and/or longevity phenotypes is by studying mice in which the gene is knocked out. However, this is a long and expensive process and the large number of candidate genes makes it problematic. In collaboration with the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory, we knocked down gene expression in zebrafish to look at renal phenotypes, and in C. elegans to look at longevity. For example, Gorasp2 is a gene that we identified in our aging study to be associated with albuminuria. Knockdown of this gene in zebrafish leads to proteinuria, while knockdown in C. elegans leads to an increase in lifespan of 15%. These results seem to contradict and suggest that the gene is involved in different processes with different effects on disease and aging.

Lab staff

Principal Investigator:  Ron Korstanje, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Fellow:  George Sutphin, Ph.D.
Research Laboratory Manager: Susan Sheehan, B.A., M.S.
Research Assistant I: Grant Backer, B.S., Yuka Takemon, B.A.
Biomedical Technologist I:
Holly Savage
Laboratory Technician IV: Rachel Gott
Research Administrative Assistant: Patricia Cherry

Publication listings

Selected publications


Pouwels SD, Heijink IH, Brouwer U, Gras R, den Boef LE, Boezen HM, Korstanje R, van Oosterhout AJ, Nawijn MC. 2015. Genetic variation associates with susceptibility for cigarette smoke-induced neutrophilia in mice. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol 308(7):L693-709.

Reznichenko A, Korstanje R. 2015. The Role of Platelet-Activating Factor in Mesangial Pathophysiology. Am J Pathol 184(4):888-8960 PMCID: PMC4380849


Ananda G, Takemon Y, Hinerfeld D, Korstanje R. 2014. Whole-genome sequence of the C57L/J mouse inbred strain. G3 (Bethesda) 4(9):1689-1692. PMCID:PMC4169161

Bogue MA, Peters LL, Paigen B, Korstanje R, Yuan R, Ackert-Bicknell C, Grubb SC, Churchill GA, Chesler EJ. 2014. Accessing data resources in the Mouse Phenome Database for genetic analysis of murine life span and health span. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. [Epub ahead of print]

Huang Y, Caputo CR, Noordmans GA, Yazdani S, Monteiro LH, van den Born J, van Goor H, Heeringa P, Korstanje R, Hillebrands JL. 2014. Identification of novel genes associated with renal tertiary lymphoid organ formation in aging mice. PLoS One 9(3):e91850. PMCID:PMC3956762

Korstanje R, Caputo CR, Doty RA, Cook SA, Bronson RT, Davisson MT, Miner JH. 2014.A mouse Col4a4 mutation causing Alport glomerulosclerosis with abnormal collagen alpha3alpha4alpha5(IV) trimers. Kidney Int 85(6):1461-1468. PMCID:PMC4040157

Noordmans GA, Huang Y, Savage H, van Dijk MCRF, Schaart G, van den Bergh Weerman MA, Heeringa P, Hillebrands JL, Korstanje R, van Goor H. 2014. Genetic analysis of intracapillary glomerular lipoprotein deposits in aging mice. PLoS ONE 9(10):e111308. PMCID:PMC4213026


Ackert-Bicknell C, Paigen B, Korstanje R. 2013. Recalculation of 23 mouse HDL QTL datasets improves accuracy and allows for better candidate gene analysis. J Lipid Res 54(4):984-994 PMCID:PMC3606003

Choi S, Aljakna A, Srivastava U, Peterson BR, Deng B, Prat A, Korstanje R. 2013.  Decreased APOE-containing HDL subfractions and cholesterol efflux capacity of serum in mice lacking Pcsk9. Lipids Health Dis 12(1):112. PMCID: PMC3751695

Kirsch T, Kaufeld J, Korstanje R, Hentschel DM, Staggs L, Bollig F, Beese M, Schroder P, Boehme L, Haller H, Schiffer M 2013. Knockdown of the hypertension-associated gene NOSTRIN alters glomerular barrier function in zebrafish (Danio rerio). Hypertension 62(4):726-730.

Long DA, Kolatsi-Joannou M, Price KL, Dessapt-Baradez C, Huang JL, Papakrivopoulou E, Hubank M, Korstanje R, Gnudi L, Woolf AS. 2013. Albuminuria is associated with too few glomeruli and too much testosterone. Kidney Int 83:(6):1118-1129. PMCID: PMC3674403

Noordmans GA, Caputo CR, Huang Y, Sheehan SM, Bulthuis M, Heeringa P, Hillebrands JL, van Goor H, Korstanje R. 2013. Genetic analysis of mesangial matrix expansion in aging mice and identification of Far2 as a candidate gene. J Am Soc Nephrol. 24(12):1995-2001 PMCID:PMC3839541

Walkin L, Herrick SE, Summers A, Brenchley PE, Hoff CM, Korstanje R, Margetts PJ. 2013. The role of mouse strain differences in the susceptibility to fibrosis: a systematic review. Fibrogenesis Tissue Repair 6(1):18. PMCID:PMC3849643


Aljakna A, Choi S, Savage H, Hageman Blair R, Gu T, Svenson KL, Churchill GA, Hibbs M, Korstanje R. 2012. Pla2g12b and Hpn are genes identified by mouse ENU mutagenesis that affect HDL cholesterol . PLoS One 7(8):e43139. PMCID: PMC3422231

Korstanje R, Zhang W, Thaisz J, Staedtler F, Harttman N, Xu L, Feng M, Yanas L, Valdar W, Churchill GA, DiPetrillo K. 2012. Genome-wide association mapping of quantitative traits in outbred mice. G3 (Bethesda) 2(2):167-174. PMCID: PMC328432

Srivastava U, Paigen BJ, Korstanje R. 2012. Differences in health status affect susceptibility and mapping of genetic loci for atherosclerosis (fatty streak) in inbred mice . Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 32(10):2380-2386. PMCID:PMC3563286

Zhang W, Korstanje R, Thaisz J, Staedtler F, Harttman N, Xu L, Feng M, Yanas L, Yang H, Valdar W, Churchill GA, DiPetrillo K. 2012. Genome-wide association mapping of quantitative traits in outbred mice. G3(Bethesda) 2(2):167-174. PMCID:PMC3284324


Leduc MS, Lyons M, Darvishi K, Walsh K, Sheehan S, Amend S, Cox A, Orho-Melander M, Kathiresan S, Paigen B, Korstanje R. 2011. The Mouse QTL Map Helps Interpret Human Genome-Wide Association Studies for HDL Cholesterol. Journal of Lipid Research 52(6):1139-1149.

Hageman RS, Leduc MS, Korstanje R, Paigen B, Churchill GA. 2011. A Bayesian framework for inference of the genotype-phenotype map for segregating populations. Genetics 187(4):1163-1170.

Sinke A, Caputo C, Tsaih S, Yuan R, Ren D, Deen P, Korstanje R. 2011. Genetic analysis of plasma sodium concentration in mice and identification of Nalcn, a novel player in osmoregulation. Physiological Genomics 43(5):265-270.

Hageman RS, Leduc MS, Caputo C, Tsaih SW, Churchill GA, Korstanje R. 2011. Uncovering Genes and Regulatory Pathways Related to Urinary Albumin Excretion in Mice. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 22(1):73-81.


Cox A, Sheehan S, Klöting I, Paigen B, Korstanje R. 2010. Combining QTL Data for HDL Cholesterol Levels from Two Different Species Leads to Smaller Confidence Intervals. Heredity 105(5):426-432.

Garret M, Pezzolesi M, Korstanje R. 2010. Integrating human, rat, and mouse data to identify the genetic factors involved in chronic kidney disease. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology 21(3):398-405.

Tsaih S, Pezzolesi M, Yuan R, Warram JH, Krolewski A, Korstanje R. 2010. Genetic analysis of albuminuria in the aging mouse. Kidney International 77(3):201-210. 


Xing S, Yuan R, Svenson K, Jorgenson L, So M, Paigen B, Korstanje R. 2009. Genetic influence on electrocardiogram time intervals and heart rate in aging mice. AJP Heart and Circulatory Physiology 296(6):H1907-1913.

Kamilic J, Lely AT, van Goor H, Buikema H, Tent H, Navis GJ, Korstanje R. 2009. Differential ACE expression among tissues in allele-specific Wistar rat lines. Mammalian Genome 20(3):170-179.

Tsaih S, Korstanje R. 2009. Haplotype association mapping in mice. Methods Mol Biol 573:213-222. 


Korstanje R, Desai J, Lazar G, King BL, Rollins J, Spurr M, Joseph J, Kadambi S, Li Y, Cherry A, Matteson PG, Paigen B, Millonig JH.  2008. Quantitative trait loci affecting phenotypic variation in the vacuolated lens mouse mutant, a multigenic mouse model of neural tube defects.  Physiological Genomics  35(3):296-304. 

Doorenbos C, Tsaih S, Sheehan S, Ishimori N, Navis G, Churchill G, DiPetrillo K, Korstanje R. 2008. Quantitative Trait Loci for urinary albumin in crosses between C57BL/6J and A/J inbred mice in the presence and absence of Apoe. Genetics 179:693-699.

Matteson PG, Desai J, Korstanje R, Lazar G, Borsuk TE, Rollins J, Kadambi S, Joseph J, Rahman T, Wink J, Benayed R, Paigen B, Millonig JH. 2008. The orphan G protein coupled receptor, Gpr161, encodes the vacuolated lens locus and controls neurulation and lens development. PNAS 105(6):2088-2093.

Search Staff Bibliography Database

Related Topics

Postdoctoral training program
Get details on our award winning program and how to apply.

Learn more