Podocin-green fluorescence protein allows visualization and functional analysis of podocytes.
ABSTRACT: Podocytes do not remain fully differentiated when cultured, and they are difficult to image in vivo, making the study of podocyte biology challenging. Zebrafish embryos are transparent and develop a single, midline, pronephric glomerulus accessible for imaging and systematic functional analysis. Here, we describe a transgenic zebrafish line that expresses green fluorescence protein (GFP) from the zebrafish podocin promoter. The line recapitulates the endogenous pronephric podocin expression pattern, showing GFP expression exclusively in podocytes starting 2 days postfertilization. Using the podocyte GFP signal as a guide for dissection, we examined the pronephric glomerulus by scanning electron microscopy; the surface ultrastructure exhibited fine, interdigitating podocyte foot processes surrounding glomerular capillaries. To determine whether the GFP signal could serve as a direct readout of developmental abnormalities or injury to the glomerulus, we knocked down the podocyte-associated protein crb2b; this led to a loss of GFP signal. Thus, podocin-GFP zebrafish provide a model for ultrastructural studies and in vivo visualization and functional analysis of glomerular podocytes. This model should also be useful for high-throughput genetic or chemical analysis of glomerular development and function.
Project description:Podocytes are specialized cells of the kidney that form the blood filtration barrier in the kidney glomerulus. The barrier function of podocytes depends upon the development of specialized cell-cell adhesion complexes called slit-diaphragms that form between podocyte foot processes surrounding glomerular blood vessels. Failure of the slit-diaphragm to form results in leakage of high molecular weight proteins into the blood filtrate and urine, a condition called proteinuria. In this work, we test whether the zebrafish pronephros can be used as an assay system for the development of glomerular function with the goal of identifying novel components of the slit-diaphragm. We first characterized the function of the zebrafish homolog of Nephrin, the disease gene associated with the congenital nephritic syndrome of the Finnish type, and Podocin, the gene mutated in autosomal recessive steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome. Zebrafish nephrin and podocin were specifically expressed in pronephric podocytes and required for the development of pronephric podocyte cell structure. Ultrastructurally, disruption of nephrin or podocin expression resulted in a loss of slit-diaphragms at 72 and 96 h post-fertilization and failure to form normal podocyte foot processes. We also find that expression of the band 4.1/FERM domain gene mosaic eyes in podocytes is required for proper formation of slit-diaphragm cell-cell junctions. A functional assay of glomerular filtration barrier revealed that absence of normal nephrin, podocin or mosaic eyes expression results in loss of glomerular filtration discrimination and aberrant passage of high molecular weight substances into the glomerular filtrate.
Project description:Vertebrate glomerular podocytes possess a highly sialylated transmembrane glycoprotein, Podocalyxin. In mammals, the sialic acid of Podocalyxin plays a crucial role in the formation of the characteristic podocyte architecture required for glomerular filtration. We examined the function of Podocalyxin in the developing zebrafish pronephros by disrupting the expression of <i>podocalyxin</i> through the use of morpholino antisense oligonucleotides. Podocalyxin was localized at the apical membrane of podocytes throughout pronephric glomerular development in zebrafish. Translational blocking of <i>podocalyxin</i> expression resulted in pericardial edema and a hypoplastic glomerulus. Whereas regular foot processes with a slit diaphragm covered 66.7 ± 7.8% of the urinary surface of glomerular basement membrane in control fish, only 14.4 ± 7.5% of this area was covered with regular foot processes in the translationally-blocked morphants. Splice blocking of <i>podocalyxin</i> exon 2, which partially encodes the bulky mucin domain with extensive sialic acid-containing sugar chains, resulted in the deletion of 53% of mucin domain-coding sequence from <i>podocalyxin</i> mRNA. Approximately 40% of these splice-blocked morphants had mild pericardial edema. Although the pronephric glomerulus in the splice-blocked morphants exhibited almost normal appearance with developed glomerular capillaries and mesangium, they had only 36.3 ± 6.9% of the area covered with regular foot processes. In conclusion, Podocalyxin is predominantly expressed in the podocytes and plays a distinct role in the formation of the podocyte foot processes with a slit diaphragm during zebrafish pronephric development.
Project description:Damage or loss of podocytes causes glomerulosclerosis in murine models, and mutations in podocyte-specific genes cause nephrotic syndrome in humans. Zebrafish provide a valuable model for kidney research, but disruption of pronephroi leads to death within a few days, thereby preventing the study of CKD. In this study, we generated an inducible model of podocyte injury in zebrafish (pod::NTR-mCherry) by expressing a bacterial nitroreductase, which converts metronidazole to a cytotoxin, specifically in podocytes under the control of the zebrafish nphs2/podocin promoter. Application of the prodrug metronidazole to the transgenic fish induces acute damage to the podocytes in pronephroi of larval zebrafish and the mesonephroi of adult zebrafish, resulting in foot-process effacement and podocyte loss. We also developed a functional assay of the glomerular filtration barrier by creating transgenic zebrafish expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged vitamin D-binding protein (VDBP) as a tracer for proteinuria. In the VDBP-GFP and pod::NTR-mCherry double-transgenic fish, induction of podocyte damage led to whole-body edema, and the proximal tubules reabsorbed and accumulated VDBP-GFP that leaked through the glomeruli, mimicking the phenotype of human nephrotic syndrome. Moreover, expression of wt1b::GFP, a marker for the developing nephron, extended into the Bowman capsule in response to podocyte injury, suggesting that zebrafish have a podocyte-specific repair process known to occur in mammalian metanephros. These data support the use of these transgenic zebrafish as a model system for studies of glomerular pathogenesis and podocyte regeneration.
Project description:Podocyte depletion is a common mechanism driving progression in glomerular diseases. Alport Syndrome glomerulopathy, caused by defective ?3?4?5 (IV) collagen heterotrimer production by podocytes, is associated with an increased rate of podocyte detachment detectable in urine and reduced glomerular podocyte number suggesting that defective podocyte adherence to the glomerular basement membrane might play a role in driving progression. Here a genetically phenotyped Alport Syndrome cohort of 95 individuals [urine study] and 41 archived biopsies [biopsy study] were used to test this hypothesis. Podocyte detachment rate (measured by podocin mRNA in urine pellets expressed either per creatinine or 24-hour excretion) was significantly increased 11-fold above control, and prior to a detectably increased proteinuria or microalbuminuria. In parallel, Alport Syndrome glomeruli lose an average 26 podocytes per year versus control glomeruli that lose 2.3 podocytes per year, an 11-fold difference corresponding to the increased urine podocyte detachment rate. Podocyte number per glomerulus in Alport Syndrome biopsies is projected to be normal at birth (558/glomerulus) but accelerated podocyte loss was projected to cause end-stage kidney disease by about 22 years. Biopsy data from two independent cohorts showed a similar estimated glomerular podocyte loss rate comparable to the measured 11-fold increase in podocyte detachment rate. Reduction in podocyte number and density in biopsies correlated with proteinuria, glomerulosclerosis, and reduced renal function. Thus, the podocyte detachment rate appears to be increased from birth in Alport Syndrome, drives the progression process, and could potentially help predict time to end-stage kidney disease and response to treatment.
Project description:An in vitro model of the human kidney glomerulus - the major site of blood filtration - could facilitate drug discovery and illuminate kidney-disease mechanisms. Microfluidic organ-on-a-chip technology has been used to model the human proximal tubule, yet a kidney-glomerulus-on-a-chip has not been possible because of the lack of functional human podocytes - the cells that regulate selective permeability in the glomerulus. Here, we demonstrate an efficient (> 90%) and chemically defined method for directing the differentiation of human induced pluripotent stem (hiPS) cells into podocytes that express markers of the mature phenotype (nephrin+, WT1+, podocin+, Pax2-) and that exhibit primary and secondary foot processes. We also show that the hiPS-cell-derived podocytes produce glomerular basement-membrane collagen and recapitulate the natural tissue/tissue interface of the glomerulus, as well as the differential clearance of albumin and inulin, when co-cultured with human glomerular endothelial cells in an organ-on-a-chip microfluidic device. The glomerulus-on-a-chip also mimics adriamycin-induced albuminuria and podocyte injury. This in vitro model of human glomerular function with mature human podocytes may facilitate drug development and personalized-medicine applications.
Project description:Podocyte or endothelial cell VEGF-A knockout causes thrombotic microangiopathy in adult mice. To study the mechanism involved in acute and local injury caused by low podocyte VEGF-A we developed an inducible, podocyte-specific VEGF-A knockdown mouse, and we generated an immortalized podocyte cell line (VEGF(KD)) that downregulates VEGF-A upon doxycycline exposure. Tet-O-siVEGF:podocin-rtTA mice express VEGF shRNA in podocytes in a doxycycline-regulated manner, decreasing VEGF-A mRNA and VEGF-A protein levels in isolated glomeruli to ~20% of non-induced controls and urine VEGF-A to ~30% of control values a week after doxycycline induction. Induced tet-O-siVEGF:podocin-rtTA mice developed acute renal failure and proteinuria, associated with mesangiolysis and microaneurisms. Glomerular ultrastructure revealed endothelial cell swelling, GBM lamination and podocyte effacement. VEGF knockdown decreased podocyte fibronectin and glomerular endothelial alpha(V)beta(3) integrin in vivo. VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR2) interacts with beta(3) integrin and neuropilin-1 in the kidney in vivo and in VEGF(KD) podocytes. Podocyte VEGF knockdown disrupts alpha(V)beta(3) integrin activation in glomeruli, detected by WOW1-Fab. VEGF silencing in cultured VEGF(KD) podocytes downregulates fibronectin and disrupts alpha(V)beta(3) integrin activation cell-autonomously. Collectively, these studies indicate that podocyte VEGF-A regulates alpha(V)beta(3) integrin signaling in the glomerulus, and that podocyte VEGF knockdown disrupts alpha(V)beta(3) integrin activity via decreased VEGFR2 signaling, thereby damaging the three layers of the glomerular filtration barrier, causing proteinuria and acute renal failure.
Project description:Podocytes are specialized epithelial cells covering the basement membrane of the glomerulus in the kidney. The molecular mechanisms underlying the role of podocytes in glomerular filtration are still largely unknown. We generated podocin-deficient (Nphs2-/-) mice to investigate the function of podocin, a protein expressed at the insertion of the slit diaphragm in podocytes and defective in a subset of patients with steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome and focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis. Nphs2-/- mice developed proteinuria during the antenatal period and died a few days after birth from renal failure caused by massive mesangial sclerosis. Electron microscopy revealed the extensive fusion of podocyte foot processes and the lack of a slit diaphragm in the remaining foot process junctions. Using real-time PCR and immunolabeling, we showed that the expression of other slit diaphragm components was modified in Nphs2-/- kidneys: the expression of the nephrin gene was downregulated, whereas that of the ZO1 and CD2AP genes appeared to be upregulated. Interestingly, the progression of the renal disease, as well as the presence or absence of renal vascular lesions, depends on the genetic background. Our data demonstrate the crucial role of podocin in the establishment of the glomerular filtration barrier and provide a suitable model for mapping and identifying modifier genes involved in glomerular diseases caused by podocyte injuries.
Project description:Podocytes are critical in the maintenance of a healthy glomerular filter; however, they have been difficult to study in the intact kidney because of technical limitations. Here we report the development of serial multiphoton microscopy (MPM) of the same glomeruli over several days to visualize the motility of podocytes and parietal epithelial cells (PECs) in vivo. In podocin-GFP mice, podocytes formed sporadic multicellular clusters after unilateral ureteral ligation and migrated into the parietal Bowman's capsule. The tracking of single cells in podocin-confetti mice featuring cell-specific expression of CFP, GFP, YFP or RFP revealed the simultaneous migration of multiple podocytes. In phosphoenolpyruvate carboxykinase (PEPCK)-GFP mice, serial MPM found PEC-to-podocyte migration and nanotubule connections. Our data support a highly dynamic rather than a static nature of the glomerular environment and cellular composition. Future application of this new approach should advance our understanding of the mechanisms of glomerular injury and regeneration.
Project description:This study evaluated endothelial cells and podocytes, both being primary components of the glomerular filtration barrier, in the progression of membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) using modified scanning electron microscopy (mSEM) analysis. BXSB/MpJ-Yaa model mice exhibited autoimmune-mediated MPGN characterised by elevated serum autoantibody levels, albuminuria, renal dysfunctional parameters, and decreased glomerular endothelial fenestrations (EF) and podocyte foot process (PFP) effacement with immune cell infiltration. Similar to transmission electron microscopy, mSEM revealed a series of pathological changes in basement membrane and densities of EF and PFP in BXSB/MpJ-Yaa compared with control BXSB/MpJ at different stages. Further, immunopositive area of endothelial marker (CD34), podocyte functional molecules (Nephrin, Podocin, Synaptopodin, and Wilms' tumour 1 (WT1)), and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF A) significantly decreased in the glomerulus of BXSB/MpJ-Yaa compared with BXSB at final stage. The indices of glomerular endothelial injuries (EF density and immunopositive area of CD34 and VEGF A) and podocyte injuries (PEP density and immunopositive area of podocyte functional molecules) were also significantly correlated with each other and with indices of autoimmune disease and renal dysfunction. Thus, our results elucidated the pathological crosstalk between endothelial cells and podocytes in MPGN progression and the usefulness of mSEM for glomerular pathological analysis.
Project description:Evaluating the mRNA profile of podocytes in the diabetic kidney may indicate genes involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy. To determine if the podocyte-specific gene information contained in mRNA profiles of the whole glomerulus of the diabetic kidney accurately reflects gene expression in the isolated podocytes, we crossed Nos3(-/-) IRG mice with podocin-rtTA and TetON-Cre mice for enhanced green fluorescent protein labeling of podocytes before diabetic injury. Diabetes was induced by streptozotocin, and mRNA profiles of isolated glomeruli and sorted podocytes from diabetic and control mice were examined 10 weeks later. Expression of podocyte-specific markers in glomeruli was downregulated in diabetic mice compared with controls. However, expression of these markers was not altered in sorted podocytes from diabetic mice. When mRNA levels of glomeruli were corrected for podocyte number per glomerulus, the differences in podocyte marker expression disappeared. Analysis of the differentially expressed genes in diabetic mice also revealed distinct upregulated pathways in the glomeruli (mitochondrial function, oxidative stress) and in podocytes (actin organization). In conclusion, our data suggest reduced expression of podocyte markers in glomeruli is a secondary effect of reduced podocyte number, thus podocyte-specific gene expression detected in the whole glomerulus may not represent that in podocytes in the diabetic kidney.