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1.  Angiotensin II Infusion Induces Nephrin Expression Changes and Podocyte Apoptosis 
American journal of nephrology  2008;28(3):500-507.
In in vitro studies, angiotensin (Ang) II has been demonstrated to promote podocyte apoptosis. The present study evaluates the effects of Ang II infusion in rats on podocyte nephrin expression and apoptosis and the molecular mechanisms involved in Ang II-induced proteinuria and mesangial expansion.
Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly assigned to receive either normal saline or Ang II (400 ng·kg−1·min−1) by means of a mini-osmotic pump for variable time periods. Systolic blood pressure and urinary protein and albumin excretion rate measurements were carried out on days 7, 14, 21, and 28. The animals were sacrificed on days 14 and 28 and evaluated for serum creatinine, renal pathological changes, podocyte apoptosis, renal nephrin mRNA, and protein expression.
The Ang II-infused rats developed hypertension and proteinuria. On day 14, the Ang II-infused rats showed narrowing of the slit diaphragm, an increase in podocyte nephrin mRNA and protein expression, and alterations in its distribution along the foot processes. On day 28, the Ang II-infused rats demonstrated the presence of apoptotic podocytes and decreased nephrin mRNA and protein expression. There was a negative correlation between nephrin expression and the numbers of apoptotic podocytes (r = −0.63, p < 0.05).
These results suggest that changes in nephrin expression may play a role in the pathogenesis of Ang II-induced podocyte apoptosis.
PMCID: PMC2630486  PMID: 18204248
Angiotensin II; Proteinuria; Nephrin expression; Podocyte; Apoptosis
2.  Angiotensin II induces nephrin dephosphorylation and podocyte injury: Role of caveolin-1 
Cellular signalling  2011;24(2):443-450.
Nephrin, an important structural and signal molecule of podocyte slit-diaphragm (SD), has been suggested to contribute to the angiotensin II (Ang II)-induced podocyte injury. Caveolin-1 has been demonstrated to play a crucial role in signaling transduction. In the present study, we evaluated the role of caveolin-1 in Ang II-induced nephrin phosphorylation in podocytes. Wistar rats-receiving either Ang II (400 ng/kg/min) or normal saline (via subcutaneous osmotic mini-pumps, control) were administered either vehicle or telmisartan (3 mg/kg/min) for 14 or 28 days. Blood pressure, 24-hour urinary albumin and serum biochemical profile were measured at the end of the experimental period. Renal histomorphology was evaluated through light and electron microscopy. In vitro, cultured murine podocytes were exposed to Ang II (10−6 M) pretreated with or without losartan (10−5 M) for variable time periods. Nephrin and caveolin-1 expression and their phosphorylation were analyzed by Western-blotting and immunofluorescence. Caveolar membrane fractions were isolated by sucrose density gradient centrifugation, and then the distribution and interactions between Ang II type 1 receptor (AT1), nephrin, C-terminal Src kinase (Csk) and caveolin-1 were evaluated using Western-blotting and co-immunoprecipitation. Podocyte apoptosis was evaluated by cell nucleus staining with Hoechst-33342.
Ang II-receiving rats displayed diminished phosphorylation of nephrin but enhanced glomerular/podocyte injury and proteinuria when compared to control rats. Under control conditions, podocyte displayed expression of caveolin-1 in abundance but only a low level of phospho moiety. Nonetheless, Ang II stimulated caveolin-1 phosphorylation without any change in total protein expression. Nephrin and caveolin-1 were co-localized in caveolae fractions. AT1 receptors and Csk were moved to caveolae fractions and had an interaction with caveolin-1 after the stimulation with Ang II. Transfection of caveolin-1 plasmid (pEGFPC3-cav-1) significantly increased Ang II-induced nephrin dephosphorylation and podocyte apoptosis. Furthermore, knockdown of caveolin-1 expression (using siRNA) inhibited nephrin dephosphorylation and prevented Ang II-induced podocyte apoptosis. These findings indicate that Ang II induces nephrin dephosphorylation and podocyte injury through a caveolin-1-dependent mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3237911  PMID: 21982880
Caveolin-1; Podocyte; Angiotensin II; Nephrin
3.  Antiangiogenic Treatment Diminishes Renal Injury and Dysfunction via Regulation of Local AKT in Early Experimental Diabetes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(4):e96117.
In view of increased vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) expression and renal dysfunction in early diabetes, we designed a study to test whether VEGF-A inhibition can prevent early renal injury and dysfunction. We investigated the relationship and mechanism between VEGF-A and AKT regulation. In vitro, VEGF-A small interfering RNA (siRNA) and AKT inhibitor MK-2206 were employed to podocytes and NRK-52 cells cultured in high glucose (30 mM). In vivo, the antiangiogenic drug endostatin was administered in 12 week-old streptozotocin-induced male Sprague Dawley rats. The levels of VEGF-A, AKT, phosphorylated Ser473-AKT, phosphorylated Thr308-AKT, nephrin, angiotensin II (Ang II), angiotensin type II receptor 1 (ATR1) were examined using quantitative real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR), Western blot analysis and immunohistochemistry. Interactions between phosphorylated Thr308-AKT and either nephrin in podocytes or Ang II in renal tubules were studied, respectively, using confocal immunofluorescence microscopy and immunoprecipitation. Silencing VEGF-A in podocytes upregulated phosphorylated Thr308-AKT and nephrin. Silencing VEGF-A in NRK-52E cells upregulated phosphorylated Thr308-AKT while downregulated Ang II and ATR1. MK-2206 enhanced VEGF-A expression in both podocytes and NRK-52E cells by inhibiting AKT activities. In diabetic rat kidneys, VEGF-A was upregulated and phosphorylated Thr308-AKT colocalized with either nephrin in podocytes or Ang II in renal tubules. With the endostatin treatment, the level of VEGF-A decreased while phosphorylated Thr308-AKT increased in both glomeruli and renal tubules. Treatment with endostatin upregulated nephrin in podocytes while downregulated Ang II and AT1R in renal tubules. Glomerular mesangial expansion was attenuated by the endostatin treatment, however, differences did not reach statistical significance. Endostatin ameliorated the interstitial fibrosis, urine albumin excretion rate (UAER) and albumin to creatinine ratio. We conclude that phosphorylated Thr308-AKT regulates VEGF-A expression by interacting with either nephrin in glomeruli or Ang II in renal tubules. Antiangiogenic treatment improves renal injury and function in early experimental diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3997561  PMID: 24759991
4.  c-Abl mediates angiotensin II-induced apoptosis in podocytes 
Journal of molecular histology  2013;44(5):597-608.
Angiotensin II (Ang II) has been reported to cause podocyte apoptosis in rats both in vivo and in vitro studies. However, the underlying mechanisms are poorly understood. In the present study, we investigated the role of the nonreceptor tyrosine kinase c-Abl in Ang II-induced podocyte apoptosis.
Male Sprague-Dawley rats in groups of 12 were administered either Ang II (400 kg-1·kg-1·min-1) or Ang II + STI-571 (50 mg·kg-1·d-1) by osmotic minipumps. In addition, 12 rats-receiving normal saline served as the control. Glomeruli c-Abl expression was carried out by real time PCR, Western blotting and immunolabeled, and occurrence of apoptosis was carried out by TUNEL staining and transmission electron microscopic analysis. In vitro studies, conditionally immortalized mouse podocytes were treated with Ang II (10-9-10-6 M) in the presence or absence of either c-Abl inhibitor, Src-I1, specific c-Abl siRNA, or c-Abl plasmid alone. Quantification of podocyte c-Abl expression and c-Abl phosphorylation at Y245 and Y412 was carried out by real time PCR, Western blotting and immunofluorescence imaging. The nuclear c-Abl and p53 were quantified by co-immunoprecipitation and Western blotting studies. Podocyte apoptosis was analysed by flow cytometry and Hoechst-33342 staining.
c-Abl expression was demonstrated in rat kidney podocytes in vivo and cultured mouse podocytes in vitro. Ang II-receiving rats displayed enhanced podocyte c-Abl expression. And Ang II significantly stimulated c-Abl expression in cultured podocytes. Furthermore Ang II upregulated podocyte c-Abl phosphorylation at Y245 and Y412. Ang II also induced an increase of nuclear p53 protein and nuclear c-Abl-p53 complexes in podocytes and podocyte apoptosis. Down-regulation of c-Abl expression by c-Abl inhibitor (Src-I1) as well as specific siRNA inhibited Ang II-induced podocyte apoptosis; conversely, podoctyes transfected with c-Abl plasmid displayed enhanced apoptosis.
These findings indicate that c-Abl may mediates Ang II-induced podocyte apoptosis, and inhibition of c-Abl expression can protect podocytes from Ang II-induced injury.
PMCID: PMC3758790  PMID: 23515840
c-Abl; Apoptosis; Angiotensin II, Podocyte; p53
5.  Early Treatment With Olmesartan Prevents Juxtamedullary Glomerular Podocyte Injury and the Onset of Microalbuminuria in Type 2 Diabetic Rats 
American Journal of Hypertension  2012;25(5):604-611.
Studies were performed to determine if early treatment with an angiotensin II (Ang II) receptor blocker (ARB), olmesartan, prevents the onset of microalbuminuria by attenuating glomerular podocyte injury in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
OLETF rats were treated with either a vehicle, olmesartan (10 mg/kg/day) or a combination of nonspecific vasodilators (hydralazine 15 mg/kg/day, hydrochlorothiazide 6 mg/kg/day, and reserpine 0.3 mg/kg/day; HHR) from the age of 7–25 weeks.
OLETF rats were hypertensive and had microalbuminuria from 9 weeks of age. At 15 weeks, OLETF rats had higher Ang II levels in the kidney, larger glomerular desmin-staining areas (an index of podocyte injury), and lower gene expression of nephrin in juxtamedullary glomeruli, than nondiabetic Long-Evans Tokushima Otsuka (LETO) rats. At 25 weeks, OLETF rats showed overt albuminuria, and higher levels of Ang II in the kidney and larger glomerular desmin-staining areas in superficial and juxtamedullary glomeruli compared to LETO rats. Reductions in mRNA levels of nephrin were also observed in superficial and juxtamedullary glomeruli. Although olmesartan did not affect glucose metabolism, it decreased blood pressure and prevented the renal changes in OLETF rats. HHR treatment also reduced blood pressure, but did not affect the renal parameters.
This study demonstrated that podocyte injury occurs in juxtamedullary glomeruli prior to superficial glomeruli in type 2 diabetic rats with microalbuminuria. Early treatment with an ARB may prevent the onset of albuminuria through its protective effects on juxtamedullary glomerular podocytes.
PMCID: PMC3328599  PMID: 22318512
angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs); blood pressure; hypertension; juxtamedullary glomeruli; microalbuminuria; olmesartan; type 2 diabetes mellitus
6.  Early Treatment With Olmesartan Prevents Juxtamedullary Glomerular Podocyte Injury and the Onset of Microalbuminuria in Type 2 Diabetic Rats 
American Journal of Hypertension  2012;25(5):604-611.
Studies were performed to determine if early treatment with an angiotensin II (Ang II) receptor blocker (ARB), olmesartan, prevents the onset of microalbuminuria by attenuating glomerular podocyte injury in Otsuka Long-Evans Tokushima Fatty (OLETF) rats with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
OLETF rats were treated with either a vehicle, olmesartan (10 mg/kg/ day) or a combination of nonspecific vasodilators (hydralazine 15 mg/ kg/day, hydrochlorothiazide 6 mg/kg/day, and reserpine 0.3 mg/kg/ day; HHR) from the age of 7–25 weeks.
OLETF rats were hypertensive and had microalbuminuria from 9 weeks of age. At 15 weeks, OLETF rats had higher Ang II levels in the kidney, larger glomerular desmin-staining areas (an index of podocyte injury), and lower gene expression of nephrin in juxtamedullary glomeruli, than nondiabetic Long-Evans Tokushima Otsuka (LETO) rats. At 25 weeks, OLETF rats showed overt albuminuria, and higher levels of Ang II in the kidney and larger glomerular desmin-staining areas in superficial and juxtamedullary glomeruli compared to LETO rats. Reductions in mRNA levels of nephrin were also observed in superficial and juxtamedullary glomeruli. Although olmesartan did not affect glucose metabolism, it decreased blood pressure and prevented the renal changes in OLETF rats. HHR treatment also reduced blood pressure, but did not affect the renal parameters.
This study demonstrated that podocyte injury occurs in juxtamedullary glomeruli prior to superficial glomeruli in type 2 diabetic rats with microalbuminuria. Early treatment with an ARB may prevent the onset of albuminuria through its protective effects on juxtamedullary glomerular podocytes.
PMCID: PMC3328599  PMID: 22318512
angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs); blood pressure; hypertension; juxtamedullary glomeruli; microalbuminuria; olmesartan; type 2 diabetes mellitus
7.  Neph1 Is Reduced in Primary Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis, Minimal Change Nephrotic Syndrome, and Corresponding Experimental Animal Models of Adriamycin-Induced Nephropathy and Puromycin Aminonucleoside Nephrosis 
Nephron Extra  2014;4(3):146-154.
The transmembrane proteins Neph1 and nephrin form a complex in the slit diaphragm (SD) of podocytes. As recent studies indicate an involvement of this complex in the polymerization of the actin cytoskeleton and proteinuria, we wanted to study the subcellular localization of Neph1 in the normal human kidney and its expression in focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), minimal change nephrotic syndrome (MCNS), and the corresponding experimental models of Adriamycin-induced nephropathy (ADR) and puromycin aminonucleoside nephrosis (PAN). All these disorders are characterized by substantial foot process effacement (FPE) and proteinuria.
Materials and Methods
Kidney biopsies from patients with primary FSGS (perihilar type) and MCNS were compared to normal renal tissue. Mouse and rat kidney cortices from days 7 and 14 after Adriamycin injection and days 2 and 4 after puromycin aminonucleoside injection, respectively, were compared to control mouse and rat kidney. Polyclonal antibodies against Neph1 and nephrin were used for immunoelectron microscopy, and semiquantification was performed.
We localized Neph1 mainly to, and in close proximity to, the SD. Double staining of Neph1 and nephrin showed the proteins to be in close connection in the SD. The total amount of Neph1 in the podocytes was significantly reduced in FSGS, MCNS, ADR, and PAN. The reduction of Neph1 was also seen in areas with and without FPE. Nephrin was reduced in MCNS and PAN but unchanged in FSGS.
With nephrin (but not Neph1) unchanged in FSGS, there might be a disruption of the complex and an involvement of Neph1 in its pathogenesis.
PMCID: PMC4202611  PMID: 25404935
Neph1; Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; Minimal change nephrotic syndrome; Adriamycin-induced nephropathy; Puromycin aminonucleoside nephrosis
8.  Disparate effects of eplerenone, amlodipine and telmisartan on podocyte injury in aldosterone-infused rats 
Background. Several studies in patients with primary aldosteronism (PA) have suggested that aldosterone (ALD) is directly contributing to albuminuria. However, there are limited data pertaining to the direct role of ALD in in vivo models in regard to the induction of renal injury and the involved mechanisms. In the present study, we established a high-dose ALD-infused rat model to evaluate urinary albumin excretion rate (UAER) and podocyte damage. Moreover, we studied the effect of eplerenone (EPL), telmisartan (TEL) and amlodipine (AML) on ALD-induced renal structural and functional changes.
Methods. Immunohistochemical and real-time PCR analyses, and TUNEL assays were performed to evaluate nephrin expression and podocyte injury.
Results. ALD-receiving rats (ARR) showed a progressive increase in BP, UAER and proteinuria when compared with control rats (CR). Conversely, BP was significantly reduced in ALD + EPL (A/ERR)-, ALD + AML (A/ARR)- and ALD + TEL (A/TRR)-treated rats. However, UAER and proteinuria were decreased only in A/ERR and A/TRR, but not in A/ARR. Only EPL administration provided protection against ALD-induced podocyte apoptosis. Renal tissue of ARR revealed enhanced expression of nephrin protein and mRNA. This effect of ALD was inhibited by EPL, but not by TEL or AML.
Conclusions. ALD induces direct glomerular injury independent of its haemodynamic effects; this effect of ALD is, at least in part, mediated through activation of the mineralocorticoid receptor.
PMCID: PMC3108348  PMID: 20729265
aldosterone; amlodipine; eplerenone; podocyte; telmisartan
9.  Nephrin and Podocin functions are highly conserved between the zebrafish pronephros and mammalian metanephros 
Molecular Medicine Reports  2013;9(2):457-465.
The slit diaphragm (SD) is a highly specialized intercellular junction between podocyte foot processes and is crucial in the formation of the filtration barrier in the renal glomeruli. Zebrafish Nephrin and Podocin are important in the formation of the podocyte SD and mutations in NEPHRIN and PODOCIN genes cause human nephrotic syndrome. In the present study, the zebrafish Podocin protein was observed to be predominantly localized in the pronephric glomerular podocytes, as previously reported for Nephrin. To understand the function of Podocin and Nephrin in zebrafish, splice-blocking morpholino antisense oligonucleotides were used. Knockdown of Podocin or Nephrin by this method induced pronephric glomerular hypoplasia with pericardial edema. Human NEPHRIN and PODOCIN mRNA rescued this glomerular phenotype, however, the efficacy of the rescues was greatly reduced when mRNA-encoding human disease-causing NEPHRIN-R1109X and PODOCIN-R138Q were used. Furthermore, an association between zebrafish Nephrin and Podocin proteins was observed. Notably, Podocin-R150Q, corresponding to human PODOCIN-R138Q, markedly interacted with NEPHRIN compared with wild-type PODOCIN, suggesting that this strong binding capacity of mutated PODOCIN impairs the transport of NEPHRIN and PODOCIN out of the endoplasmic reticulum. The results suggest that the functions of Nephrin and Podocin are highly conserved between the zebrafish pronephros and mammalian metanephros. Accordingly, the zebrafish pronephros may provide a useful tool for analyzing disease-causing gene mutations in human kidney disorders.
PMCID: PMC3896505  PMID: 24337247
human metanephros; nephrin; nephrotic syndrome; podocin; zebrafish pronephros
10.  Restoration of Podocyte Structure and Improvement of Chronic Renal Disease in Transgenic Mice Overexpressing Renin 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6721.
Proteinuria is a major marker of the decline of renal function and an important risk factor of coronary heart disease. Elevated proteinuria is associated to the disruption of slit-diaphragm and loss of podocyte foot processes, structural alterations that are considered irreversible. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether proteinuria can be reversed and to identify the structural modifications and the gene/protein regulation associated to this reversal.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a novel transgenic strain of mouse (RenTg) that overexpresses renin at a constant high level. At the age of 12-month, RenTg mice showed established lesions typical of chronic renal disease such as peri-vascular and periglomerular inflammation, glomerular ischemia, glomerulosclerosis, mesangial expansion and tubular dilation. Ultrastructural analysis indicated abnormal heterogeneity of basement membrane thickness and disappearance of podocyte foot processes. These structural alterations were accompanied by decreased expressions of proteins specific of podocyte (nephrin, podocin), or tubular epithelial cell (E-cadherin and megalin) integrity. In addition, since TGFβ is considered the major pro-fibrotic agent in renal disease and since exogenous administration of BMP7 is reported to antagonize the TGFβ-induced phenotype changes in kidney, we have screened the expressions of several genes belonging in the TGFβ/BMP superfamily. We found that the endogenous inhibitors of BMPs such as noggin and Usag-1 were several-fold activated inhibiting the action of BMPs and thus reinforcing the deleterious action of TGFβ.Treatment with an AT1 receptor antagonist, at dose that did not decrease arterial pressure, gradually reduced albuminuria. This decrease was accompanied by re-expression of podocin, nephrin, E-cadherin and megalin, and reappearance of podocyte foot processes. In addition, expressions of noggin and Usag-1 were markedly decreased, permitting thus activation of the beneficial action of BMPs.
These findings show that proteinuria and alterations in the expression of proteins involved in the integrity and function of glomerular and renal epithelial phenotype are reversible events when the local action of angiotensin II is blocked, and provide hope that chronic renal disease can be efficiently treated.
PMCID: PMC2725297  PMID: 19696925
11.  The Directed Differentiation of Human iPS Cells into Kidney Podocytes 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e46453.
The loss of glomerular podocytes is a key event in the progression of chronic kidney disease resulting in proteinuria and declining function. Podocytes are slow cycling cells that are considered terminally differentiated. Here we provide the first report of the directed differentiation of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to generate kidney cells with podocyte features. The iPS-derived podocytes share a morphological phenotype analogous with cultured human podocytes. Following 10 days of directed differentiation, iPS podocytes had an up-regulated expression of mRNA and protein localization for podocyte markers including synaptopodin, nephrin and Wilm’s tumour protein (WT1), combined with a down-regulation of the stem cell marker OCT3/4. In contrast to human podocytes that become quiescent in culture, iPS-derived cells maintain a proliferative capacity suggestive of a more immature phenotype. The transduction of iPS podocytes with fluorescent labeled-talin that were immunostained with podocin showed a cytoplasmic contractile response to angiotensin II (AII). A permeability assay provided functional evidence of albumin uptake in the cytoplasm of iPS podocytes comparable to human podocytes. Moreover, labeled iPS-derived podocytes were found to integrate into reaggregated metanephric kidney explants where they incorporated into developing glomeruli and co-expressed WT1. This study establishes the differentiation of iPS cells to kidney podocytes that will be useful for screening new treatments, understanding podocyte pathogenesis, and offering possibilities for regenerative medicine.
PMCID: PMC3460883  PMID: 23029522
12.  Roles of Na+/H+ Exchanger Type 1 and Intracellular pH in Angiotensin II-Induced Reactive Oxygen Species Generation and Podocyte Apoptosis 
Journal of pharmacological sciences  2013;122(3):176-183.
A growing body of evidence suggests that podocyte apoptosis is a major cause of decreased podocyte number, which leads to albuminuria and glomerular injury. The aim of this study was to clarify the molecular mechanisms of angiotensin II (Ang II)-induced apoptosis in cultured mouse podocytes. We examined the effects of Ang II (100 nmol/L) on apoptosis, superoxide anions, and cytosol pH in podocytes. For intracellular pH measurements, image analysis was conducted using confocal laser microscopy after incubation with carboxy-seminaphthorhodafluor-1. Superoxide anions and intracellular pH were elevated with Ang II treatment. Apoptotic cell numbers, as measured by TUNEL staining and caspase 3 activity, were also augmented in the Ang II–treated group. Pre-treatment with olmesartan (100 nmol/L, an Ang II type 1–receptor blocker), apocynin (50 µmol/L, NADPH oxidase inhibitor), or 5-N, N hexamethylene amiloride [30 µmol/L, Na+/H+ exchanger type 1 (NHE-1) inhibitor] abolished Ang II-induced podocyte apoptosis, whereas NHE-1 mRNA and protein expression was not affected by Ang II treatment. Moreover, Ang II increased NHE-1 phosphorylation. These results suggest that superoxide production, NHE-1 activation, and intracellular alkalization were early features prior to apoptosis in Ang II– treated mouse podocytes, and may offer new insights into the mechanisms responsible for Ang II–induced podocyte injury.
PMCID: PMC3792360  PMID: 23800993
angiotensin II; Na+/H+ exchanger type 1 (NHE-1); intracellular pH; apoptosis; podocyte
13.  Divergent roles of Smad3 and PI3-kinase in murine adriamycin nephropathy indicate distinct mechanisms of proteinuria and fibrogenesis 
Kidney international  2012;82(5):525-536.
Multiple transforming growth factor (TGF)-β-induced fibrogenic signals have been described in vitro. To evaluate mechanisms in vivo, we used an adriamycin nephropathy model in 129x1/Svj mice that display massive proteinuria by day 5 to7 and pathological findings similar to human focal segmental glomerulosclerosis by day 14. TGF-β mRNA expression increased after day 7 along with nuclear translocation of the TGF-β receptor-specific transcription factor Smad3. Inhibiting TGF-β prevented both pathological changes and type-I collagen and fibronectin mRNA expression, but proteinuria persisted. Renal Akt was phosphorylated in adriamycin-treated mice, suggesting PI3-kinase activation. Expression of mRNA for the p110γ isozyme of PI3-kinase was specifically increased and p110γ colocalized with nephrin by immunohistochemistry early in disease. Nephrin levels subsequently decreased. Inhibition of p110γ by AS605240 preserved nephrin expression and prevented proteinuria. In cultured podocytes, adriamycin stimulated p110γ expression. AS605240, but not a TGF-β receptor kinase inhibitor, prevented adriamycin-induced cytoskeletal disorganization and apoptosis, supporting a role for p110γ in podocyte injury. AS605240, at a dose that decreased proteinuria, prevented renal collagen mRNA expression in vivo but did not affect TGF-β-stimulated collagen induction in vitro. Thus, PI3-kinase p110γ mediates initial podocyte injury and proteinuria, both of which precede TGF-β-mediated glomerular scarring.
PMCID: PMC3425729  PMID: 22534961
TGF-β; glomerulosclerosis; Cell Signaling; podocyte; fibrosis
14.  Simvastatin reverses podocyte injury but not mesangial expansion in early stage type 2 diabetes mellitus 
Renal failure  2009;31(6):503-513.
Statins may confer renal protection in a variety of glomerular diseases, including diabetic nephropathy (DN). However, various glomerular lesions have different etiologies and may have different responses to statins. This study was performed to determine the differential effects of simvastatin (SMV) on glomerular pathology including mesangial expansion and podocyte injury in a mouse model of early stage type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM). Type 2 DM was induced in male C57BL/6 mice by feeding a high fat diet (HF; 45 kcal% fat). After 22 weeks, one group of HF mice was treated with SMV (HF-SMV; 7 μg/day/g BW) and another group was treated with vehicle (HF-vehicle) for 4 weeks via osmotic mini-pump. A third group served as age-matched normal diet vehicle controls (ND-vehicle; 10 kcal% fat). At the end of treatment, glomerular morphology was evaluated in a blind manner to determine the progression of DN. Body weight, blood glucose, insulin, HDL-cholesterol and triglycerides, but not LDL-cholesterol, were increased in HF mice. Over the course of treatment, the 24-hour urinary albumin excretion (UAE) was unchanged in ND-vehicle. HF mice exhibited elevated UAE, which decreased with SMV, but was unchanged with vehicle. The absolute mesangial volume and the relative mesangial volume per glomerular volume increased in HF-vehicle and remained elevated with SMV treatment. The immuno-staining of nephrin, a protein marker of the integrity of podocyte slit diaphragms, was decreased in HF-vehicle; however, the nephrin quantity of the HF-SMV group was not different from ND-vehicle. It is concluded that SMV reverses podocyte damage, but does not affect mesangial expansion in the kidneys of early stage proteinuria of type 2 DM.
PMCID: PMC3133959  PMID: 19839828
diabetic nephropathy; mice; simvastatin; statins; albuminuria
15.  Neph1 and nephrin interaction in the slit diaphragm is an important determinant of glomerular permeability 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  2003;112(2):209-221.
Neph1-deficient mice develop nephrotic syndrome at birth, indicating the importance of this protein in the development of a normal glomerular filtration barrier. While the precise subcellular localization of Neph1 remains unknown, its relationship with other components of the glomerular filtration barrier is of great interest in this field. In this paper, we localize the expression of Neph1 to the glomerular slit diaphragm by immunogold electron microscopy in rodents and describe its direct interaction with two other components of the slit diaphragm, nephrin and ZO-1. Both native and recombinant Neph1 associate with each other as dimers and multimers and interact with nephrin via their extracellular segments. Disruption of the Neph1-nephrin interaction in vivo by injecting combinations of individual subnephritogenic doses of anti-Neph1 and anti-nephrin results in complement- and leukocyte-independent proteinuria with preserved foot processes. This disruption modestly reduces Neph1 and nephrin protein expression in podocytes and dramatically reduces ZO-1 protein expression via the interaction of ZO-1 PDZ domains with the cytoplasmic tail of Neph1, independent of changes in mRNA expression of all three genes. The interaction between nephrin and Neph1 is specific and not shared by either protein with P-cadherin, another integral slit diaphragm protein. The interaction between nephrin and Neph1 therefore appears to be an important determinant of glomerular permeability.
PMCID: PMC164293  PMID: 12865409
16.  Circulating plasma factors induce tubular and glomerular alterations in septic burns patients 
Critical Care  2008;12(2):R42.
Severe burn is a systemic illness often complicated by sepsis. Kidney is one of the organs invariably affected, and proteinuria is a constant clinical finding. We studied the relationships between proteinuria and patient outcome, severity of renal dysfunction and systemic inflammatory state in burns patients who developed sepsis-associated acute renal failure (ARF). We then tested the hypothesis that plasma in these patients induces apoptosis and functional alterations that could account for proteinuria and severity of renal dysfunction in tubular cells and podocytes.
We studied the correlation between proteinuria and indexes of systemic inflammation or renal function prospectively in 19 severe burns patients with septic shock and ARF, and we evaluated the effect of plasma on apoptosis, polarity and functional alterations in cultured human tubular cells and podocytes. As controls, we collected plasma from 10 burns patients with septic shock but without ARF, 10 burns patients with septic shock and ARF, 10 non-burns patients with septic shock without ARF, 10 chronic uremic patients and 10 healthy volunteers.
Septic burns patients with ARF presented a severe proteinuria that correlated to outcome, glomerular (creatinine/urea clearance) and tubular (fractional excretion of sodium and potassium) functional impairment and systemic inflammation (white blood cell (WBC) and platelet counts). Plasma from these patients induced a pro-apoptotic effect in tubular cells and podocytes that correlated with the extent of proteinuria. Plasma-induced apoptosis was significantly higher in septic severe burns patients with ARF with respect to those without ARF or with septic shock without burns. Moreover, plasma from septic burns patients induced an alteration of polarity in tubular cells, as well as reduced expression of the tight junction protein ZO-1 and of the endocytic receptor megalin. In podocytes, plasma from septic burns patients increased permeability to albumin and decreased the expression of the slit diaphragm protein nephrin.
Plasma from burns patients with sepsis-associated ARF contains factors that affect the function and survival of tubular cells and podocytes. These factors are likely to be involved in the pathogenesis of acute tubular injury and proteinuria, which is a negative prognostic factor and an index of renal involvement in the systemic inflammatory reaction.
PMCID: PMC2447585  PMID: 18364044
17.  Podocytic PKC-Alpha Is Regulated in Murine and Human Diabetes and Mediates Nephrin Endocytosis 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(4):e10185.
Microalbuminuria is an early lesion during the development of diabetic nephropathy. The loss of high molecular weight proteins in the urine is usually associated with decreased expression of slit diaphragm proteins. Nephrin, is the major component of the glomerular slit diaphragm and loss of nephrin has been well described in rodent models of experimental diabetes as well as in human diabetic nephropathy.
Methodology/Principal Findings
In this manuscript we analyzed the role of PKC-alpha (PKCα) on endocytosis of nephrin in podocytes. We found that treatment of diabetic mice with a PKCα-inhibitor (GÖ6976) leads to preserved nephrin expression and reduced proteinuria. In vitro, we found that high glucose stimulation would induce PKCα protein expression in murine and human podocytes. We can demonstrate that PKCα mediates nephrin endocytosis in podocytes and that overexpression of PKCα leads to an augmented endocytosis response. After PKC-activation, we demonstrate an inducible association of PKCα, PICK1 and nephrin in podocytes. Moreover, we can demonstrate a strong induction of PKCα in podocytes of patients with diabetic nephropathy.
We therefore conclude that activation of PKCα is a pathomechanistic key event during the development of diabetic nephropathy. PKCα is involved in reduction of nephrin surface expression and therefore PKCα inhibition might be a novel target molecule for anti-proteinuric therapy.
PMCID: PMC2855708  PMID: 20419132
18.  Yi Qi Qing Re Gao Attenuates Podocyte Injury and Inhibits Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Overexpression in Puromycin Aminonucleoside Rat Model 
Proteinuria is the hallmark of chronic kidney disease. Podocyte damage underlies the formation of proteinuria, and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) functions as an autocrine/paracrine regulator. Yi Qi Qing Re Gao (YQQRG) has been used to treat proteinuria for more than two decades. The objective of this study was to investigate the protective effect and possible mechanisms of YQQRG on puromycin aminonucleoside (PAN) rat model. Eighty male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomized into sham group, PAN group, PAN + YQQRG group, and PAN + fosinopril group. Treatments were started 7 days before induction of nephrosis (a single intravenous injection of 40 mg/kg PAN) until day 15. 24 h urinary samples were collected on days 5, 9, and 14. The animals were sacrificed on days 3, 10, and 15, respectively. Blood samples and renal tissues were obtained for detection of biochemical and molecular biological parameters. YQQRG significantly reduced proteinuria, elevated serum albumin, and alleviated renal pathological lesions. YQQRG inhibited VEGF-A, nephrin, podocin, and CD2AP mRNA expression and elevated nephrin, podocin, and CD2AP protein levels starting on day 3. In conclusion, YQQRG attenuates podocyte injury in the rat PAN model through downregulation of VEGF-A and restoration of nephrin, podocin, and CD2AP protein expression.
PMCID: PMC4055581  PMID: 24963322
19.  Dexamethasone Resisted Podocyte Injury via Stabilizing TRPC6 Expression and Distribution 
TRPC6, a member of the canonical transient receptor potential channel (TRPC) subfamily, is an important cation selective ion channel on podocytes. Podocytes are highly differentiated cells located on the visceral face of glomerular basement membrane and featured by numerous foot processes, on which nephrin, podocin, and TRPC6 locate. Podocytes and the slit diaphragm (SD) between adjacent foot processes form a selective filtration barrier impermeable to proteins. TRPC6 is very critical for normal podocyte function. To investigate the function of TRPC6 in podocytes and its relation to proteinuria in kidney diseases, we over-expressed TRPC6 in podocytes by puromycin aminonucleoside (PAN) and observed the changes of foot processes, TRPC6 protein distribution, and mRNA expression. Accordingly, in this study, we further investigated the role of specific signaling mechanisms underlying the prosurvival effects of dexamethasone (DEX) on podocyte repair. Our results showed that podocytes processes of overexpressing TRPC6 were reduced remarkably. These changes could be rescued by DEX via blocking TRPC6 channel. Additionally, our results also showed an improvement in TRPC6 arrangement in the cells and decrease of mRNA expression and protein distribution. From these results, we therefore proposed that overexpression of TRPC6 in podocytes may be one of the fundamental changes relating to the dysfunction of the SD and proteinuria. DEX may be maintained the structure and function integrity of SD by blocking TRPC6 signal pathway and played an important role in mechanisms of anti-proteinuria.
PMCID: PMC3321534  PMID: 22545060
20.  Hepatocyte growth factor signaling ameliorates podocyte injury and proteinuria 
Kidney international  2010;77(11):962-973.
Hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) is a potent antifibrotic protein that inhibits kidney fibrosis through several mechanisms. To study its role in podocyte homeostasis, injury, and repair in vivo, we generated conditional knockout mice in which the HGF receptor, c-met, was specifically deleted in podocytes using the Cre–LoxP system. Mice with podocyte-specific ablation of c-met (podo-met−/−) developed normally. No albuminuria or overt pathologic lesions were detected up to 6 months of age, suggesting that HGF signaling is dispensable for podocyte maturation, survival, and function under normal physiologic conditions. However, after adriamycin treatment, podo-met−/− mice developed more severe podocyte injury and albuminuria than their control littermates. Ablation of c-met also resulted in more profound suppression of Wilms tumor 1 (WT1) and nephrin expression, and podocyte apoptosis after injury. When HGF was expressed ectopically in vivo, it ameliorated adriamycin-induced albuminuria, preserved WT1 and nephrin expression, and inhibited podocyte apoptosis. However, exogenous HGF failed to significantly reduce albuminuria in podo-met−/− mice, suggesting that podocyte-specific c-met activation by HGF confers renal protection. In vitro, HGF was able to preserve WT1 and nephrin expression in cultured podocytes after adriamycin treatment. HGF also protected podocytes from apoptosis induced by a lethal dose of adriamycin primarily through a phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt-dependent pathway. Collectively, these results indicate that HGF/c-met signaling has an important role in protecting podocytes from injury, thereby reducing proteinuria.
PMCID: PMC3071594  PMID: 20375988
adriamycin nephropathy; c-met; HGF; podocyte; proteinuria
21.  Novel siRNA Delivery System to Target Podocytes In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(3):e9463.
Podocytes are injured in several glomerular diseases. To alter gene expression specifically in podocytes in vivo, we took advantage of their active endocytotic machinery and developed a method for the targeted delivery of small interfering ribonucleic acids (siRNA). We generated an anti-mouse podocyte antibody that binds to rat and mouse podocytes in vivo. The polyclonal IgG antibody was cleaved into monovalent fragments, while preserving the antigen recognition sites. One Neutravidin molecule was linked to each monovalent IgG via the available sulfohydryl group. Protamine, a polycationic nuclear protein and universal adaptor for anionic siRNA, was linked to the neutravidin via biotin. The delivery system was named shamporter (sheep anti mouse podocyte transporter). Injection of shamporter coupled with either nephrin siRNA or TRPC6 siRNA via tail vein into normal rats substantially reduced the protein levels of nephrin or TRPC6 respectively, measured by western blot analysis and immunostaining. The effect was target specific because other podocyte-specific genes remained unchanged. Shamporter + nephrin siRNA induced transient proteinuria in rats. Control rats injected with shamporter coupled to control-siRNA showed no changes. These results show for the first time that siRNA can be delivered efficiently and specifically to podocytes in vivo using an antibody-delivery system.
PMCID: PMC2830889  PMID: 20209128
22.  Mechanisms by which heme oxygenase rescue renal dysfunction in obesity 
Redox Biology  2014;2:1029-1037.
Obesity and excessive inflammation/oxidative stress are pathophysiological forces associated with kidney dysfunction. Although we recently showed that heme-oxygenase (HO) improves renal functions, the mechanisms are largely unclear. Moreover, the effects of the HO-system on podocyte cytoskeletal proteins like podocin, podocalyxin, CD2-associated-protein (CD2AP) and proteins of regeneration/repair like beta-catenin, Oct3/4, WT1 and Pax2 in renal tissue from normoglycemic obese Zucker-fatty rats (ZFs) have not been reported.
Treatment with hemin reduced renal histo-pathological lesions including glomerular-hypertrophy, tubular-cast, tubular-atrophy and mononuclear cell-infiltration in ZFs. These were associated with enhanced expression of beta-catenin, Oct3/4, WT1, Pax2 and nephrin, an essential transmembrane protein required for the formation of the scaffoldings of the podocyte slit-diaphragm, permitting the filtration of small ions, but not massive excretion of proteins, hence proteinuria. Besides nephrin, hemin also enhanced other important podocyte-regulators including, podocalyxin, podocin and CD2AP. Correspondingly, important markers of renal dysfunction such as albuminuria and proteinuria were reduced, while creatinine clearance increased, suggesting improved renal function in hemin-treated ZFs. The renoprotection by hemin was accompanied by the reduction of inflammatory/oxidative mediators including, macrophage-inflammatory-protein-1α, macrophage-chemoattractant-protein-1 and 8-isoprostane, whereas HO-1, HO-activity and the total-anti-oxidant-capacity increased. Contrarily, the HO-inhibitor, stannous-mesoporphyrin nullified the reno-protection by hemin.
Collectively, these data suggest that hemin ameliorates nephropathy by potentiating the expression of proteins of repair/regeneration, abating oxidative/inflammatory mediators, reducing renal histo-pathological lesions, while enhancing nephrin, podocin, podocalyxin, CD2AP and creatinine clearance, with corresponding reduction of albuminuria/proteinuria suggesting improved renal function in hemin-treated ZFs. Importantly, the concomitant potentiation regeneration proteins and podocyte cytoskeletal proteins are novel mechanisms by which hemin rescue nephropathy in obesity.
•Renal dysfunction is common in obesity.•Novel mechanisms by which heme-oxygenase (HO) rescue kidney failure are unveiled.•HO enhance podocyte cytoskeletal proteins like podocin, podocalyxin and CD2AP.•HO enhance proteins of regeneration/repair like beta-catenin, Oct3/4, WT1 and Pax2.
PMCID: PMC4215395  PMID: 25460740
Heme oxygenase; beta-catenin; Podocalyxin; Oct-3/4; Podocin; CD2-associated protein
23.  Effect of the Monocyte Chemoattractant Protein-1/CC Chemokine Receptor 2 System on Nephrin Expression in Streptozotocin-Treated Mice and Human Cultured Podocytes 
Diabetes  2009;58(9):2109-2118.
Monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1), a chemokine binding to the CC chemokine receptor 2 (CCR2) and promoting monocyte infiltration, has been implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy. To assess the potential relevance of the MCP-1/CCR2 system in the pathogenesis of diabetic proteinuria, we studied in vitro if MCP-1 binding to the CCR2 receptor modulates nephrin expression in cultured podocytes. Moreover, we investigated in vivo if glomerular CCR2 expression is altered in kidney biopsies from patients with diabetic nephropathy and whether lack of MCP-1 affects proteinuria and expression of nephrin in experimental diabetes.
Expression of nephrin was assessed in human podocytes exposed to rh-MCP-1 by immunofluorescence and real-time PCR. Glomerular CCR2 expression was studied in 10 kidney sections from patients with overt nephropathy and eight control subjects by immunohistochemistry. Both wild-type and MCP-1 knockout mice were made diabetic with streptozotocin. Ten weeks after the onset of diabetes, albuminuria and expression of nephrin, synaptopodin, and zonula occludens-1 were examined by immunofluorescence and immunoblotting.
In human podocytes, MCP-1 binding to the CCR2 receptor induced a significant reduction in nephrin both mRNA and protein expression via a Rho-dependent mechanism. The MCP-1 receptor, CCR2, was overexpressed in the glomerular podocytes of patients with overt nephropathy. In experimental diabetes, MCP-1 was overexpressed within the glomeruli and the absence of MCP-1 reduced both albuminuria and downregulation of nephrin and synaptopodin.
These findings suggest that the MCP-1/CCR2 system may be relevant in the pathogenesis of proteinuria in diabetes.
PMCID: PMC2731530  PMID: 19587356
24.  Podocyte-specific overexpression of human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 attenuates diabetic nephropathy in mice 
Kidney International  2012;82(3):292-303.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) degrades angiotensin II to angiotensin-(1–7) and is expressed in podocytes. Here we overexpressed ACE2 in podocytes in experimental diabetic nephropathy using transgenic methods where a nephrin promoter drove the expression of human ACE2. Glomeruli from these mice had significantly increased mRNA, protein, and activity of ACE2 compared to wild-type mice. Male mice were treated with streptozotocin to induce diabetes. After 16 weeks, there was no significant difference in plasma glucose levels between wild-type and transgenic diabetic mice. Urinary albumin was significantly increased in wild-type diabetic mice at 4 weeks, whereas albuminuria in transgenic diabetic mice did not differ from wild-type nondiabetic mice. However, this effect was transient and by 16 weeks both transgenic and nontransgenic diabetic mice had similar rates of proteinuria. Compared to wild-type diabetic mice, transgenic diabetic mice had an attenuated increase in mesangial area, decreased glomerular area, and a blunted decrease in nephrin expression. Podocyte numbers decreased in wild-type diabetic mice at 16 weeks, but were unaffected in transgenic diabetic mice. At 8 weeks, kidney cortical expression of transforming growth factor-β1 was significantly inhibited in transgenic diabetic mice as compared to wild-type diabetic mice. Thus, the podocyte-specific overexpression of human ACE2 transiently attenuates the development of diabetic nephropathy.
PMCID: PMC3410252  PMID: 22475818
ACE2; albuminuria; angiotensin; apoptosis; diabetes; podocyte
25.  Nephritogenic mAb 5-1-6 is directed at the extracellular domain of rat nephrin 
Journal of Clinical Investigation  1999;104(11):1559-1566.
mAb 5-1-6 identifies an antigen on rat podocyte slit-diaphragms and induces severe proteinuria when injected into rats. Nephrin, an Ig-like transmembrane protein that is mutated in congenital nephrotic syndrome of the Finnish type, has been localized to the slit-diaphragm on human podocytes. Here we document that the mAb 5-1-6 antigen is rat nephrin. After incubation of rat glomeruli with this mAb, the antibody/antigen complex was chemically cross-linked, extracted, and immunoprecipitated, prior to Western analysis. By mass spectrometry and 2D gel electrophoresis, we identified several peptides with complete identity to human nephrin. In addition, the 185-kDa protein immunoprecipitated by mAb 5-1-6 from rat glomerular extracts reacts with a rabbit anti-mouse nephrin antibody. Finally, nephrin and the mAb 5-1-6 antigen have identical glomerular localization patterns on immunofluorescence of rat kidney. These results demonstrate that the nephritogenic mAb 5-1-6 identifies the extracellular domain of nephrin, thereby documenting the importance of the slit-diaphragm and its component, nephrin, in the regulation of glomerular permselectivity.
J. Clin. Invest. 104:1559–1566 (1999).
PMCID: PMC409863  PMID: 10587519

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