The collecting ducts of the kidney are composed of intercalated cells (responsible for acid/base transport), principal cells (mediating salt and water absorption), and inner medullary cells, which mediate all three types of transport. Forkhead box (Fox) genes are a large family of transcription factors that are important in cell-type specification during organogenesis. In this issue, Blomqvist et al. find that mice lacking Foxi1 have no intercalated cells in the kidney . The collecting ducts of the null mice contained primitive cells that expressed both intercalated cell and principal cell proteins, yet the acid/base transport function of the kidney was disrupted and the mice exhibited distal renal tubular acidosis. These findings suggest that Foxi1 plays a critical role in determining cell identity during collecting duct development.
Qais Al-Awqati, George J. Schwartz