Autonomous Calcium Signaling in Human and Zebrafish Podocytes Controls Kidney Filtration Barrier Morphogenesis.
ABSTRACT: Podocytes are critical to maintaining the glomerular filtration barrier, and mutations in nephrotic syndrome genes are known to affect podocyte calcium signaling. However, the role of calcium signaling during podocyte development remains unknown. We undertook live imaging of calcium signaling in developing podocytes, using zebrafish larvae and human kidney organoids. To evaluate calcium signaling during development and in response to channel blockers and genetic defects, the calcium biosensor GCaMP6s was expressed in zebrafish podocytes. We used electron microscopy to evaluate filtration barrier formation in zebrafish, and Fluo-4 to detect calcium signals in differentiating podocytes in human kidney organoids. Immature zebrafish podocytes (2.5 days postfertilization) generated calcium transients that correlated with interactions with forming glomerular capillaries. Calcium transients persisted until 4 days postfertilization, and were absent after glomerular barrier formation was complete. We detected similar calcium transients in maturing human organoid glomeruli, suggesting a conserved mechanism. In both models, inhibitors of SERCA or IP3 receptor calcium-release channels blocked calcium transients in podocytes, whereas lanthanum was ineffective, indicating the calcium source is from intracellular podocyte endoplasmic-reticulum stores. Calcium transients were not affected by blocking heartbeat or by blocking development of endothelium or endoderm, and they persisted in isolated glomeruli, suggesting podocyte-autonomous calcium release. Inhibition of expression of phospholipase C-γ1, but not nephrin or phospholipase C-ε1, led to significantly decreased calcium activity. Finally, blocking calcium release affected glomerular shape and podocyte foot process formation, supporting the critical role of calcium signaling in glomerular morphogenesis. These findings establish podocyte cell-autonomous calcium signaling as a prominent and evolutionarily conserved feature of podocyte differentiation and demonstrate its requirement for podocyte foot process formation.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Inhibition of angiotensin II (AngII) signaling, a therapeutic mainstay of glomerular kidney diseases, is thought to act primarily through regulating glomerular blood flow and reducing filtration pressure. Although extravascular actions of AngII have been suggested, a direct effect of AngII on podocytes has not been demonstrated <i>in vivo</i>.<h4>Methods</h4>To study the effects of AngII on podocyte calcium levels <i>in vivo</i>, we used intravital microscopy of the kidney in mice expressing the calcium indicator protein GCaMP3.<h4>Results</h4>In healthy animals, podocytes displayed limited responsiveness to AngII stimulation. In contrast, in animals subjected to either adriamycin-induced acute chemical injury or genetic deletion of the podocin-encoding gene <i>Nphs2</i>, the consequent podocyte damage and proteinuria rendered the cells responsive to AngII and resulted in AngII-induced calcium transients in significantly more podocytes. The angiotensin type 1 receptor blocker losartan could fully inhibit this response. Also, responsiveness to AngII was at least partly mediated through the transient receptor potential channel 6, which has been implicated in podocyte calcium handling. Interestingly, loss of a single <i>Nphs2</i> allele also increased podocytes' responsiveness to AngII signaling. This direct effect of AngII on injured podocytes results in increased calcium transients, which can further aggravate the underlying kidney disease.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Our discovery that podocytes become sensitized to AngII-induced calcium signaling upon injury might explain results from large, randomized, controlled trials in which improved renal outcomes occur only in the subgroup of patients with proteinuria, indicating podocyte damage. Our findings also emphasize the need to treat every patient with a glomerular disease with either an angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor or an angiotensin type 1 receptor blocker.
Project description: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:Background FSGS is a pattern of podocyte injury that leads to loss of glomerular function. Podocytes support other podocytes and glomerular capillary structure, oppose hemodynamic forces, form the slit diaphragm, and have mechanical properties that permit these functions. However, the biophysical characteristics of glomeruli and podocytes in disease remain unclear.Methods Using microindentation, atomic force microscopy, immunofluorescence microscopy, quantitative RT-PCR, and a three-dimensional collagen gel contraction assay, we studied the biophysical and structural properties of glomeruli and podocytes in chronic (Tg26 mice [HIV protein expression]) and acute (protamine administration [cytoskeletal rearrangement]) models of podocyte injury.Results Compared with wild-type glomeruli, Tg26 glomeruli became progressively more deformable with disease progression, despite increased collagen content. Tg26 podocytes had disordered cytoskeletons, markedly abnormal focal adhesions, and weaker adhesion; they failed to respond to mechanical signals and exerted minimal traction force in three-dimensional collagen gels. Protamine treatment had similar but milder effects on glomeruli and podocytes.Conclusions Reduced structural integrity of Tg26 podocytes causes increased deformability of glomerular capillaries and limits the ability of capillaries to counter hemodynamic force, possibly leading to further podocyte injury. Loss of normal podocyte mechanical integrity could injure neighboring podocytes due to the absence of normal biophysical signals required for podocyte maintenance. The severe defects in podocyte mechanical behavior in the Tg26 model may explain why Tg26 glomeruli soften progressively, despite increased collagen deposition, and may be the basis for the rapid course of glomerular diseases associated with severe podocyte injury. In milder injury (protamine), similar processes occur but over a longer time.
Project description:Background Loss of glomerular podocytes is an indicator of diabetic kidney disease (DKD). The damage to these cells has been attributed in part to elevated intrarenal oxidative stress. The primary source of the renal reactive oxygen species, particularly H2O2, is NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4). We hypothesized that NOX4-derived H2O2 contributes to podocyte damage in DKD via elevation of podocyte calcium.Methods We used Dahl salt-sensitive (SS) rats with a null mutation for the Nox4 gene (SSNox4-/-) and mice with knockout of the nonselective calcium channel TRPC6 or double knockout of TRPC5 and TRPC6. We performed whole animal studies and used biosensor measurements, electron microscopy, electrophysiology, and live calcium imaging experiments to evaluate the contribution of this pathway to the physiology of the podocytes in freshly isolated glomeruli.Results Upon induction of type 1 diabetes with streptozotocin, SSNox4-/- rats exhibited significantly lower basal intracellular Ca2+ levels in podocytes and less DKD-associated damage than SS rats did. Furthermore, the angiotensin II-elicited calcium flux was blunted in glomeruli isolated from diabetic SSNox4-/- rats compared with that in glomeruli from diabetic SS rats. H2O2 stimulated TRPC-dependent calcium influx in podocytes from wild-type mice, but this influx was blunted in podocytes from Trpc6-knockout mice and, in a similar manner, in podocytes from Trpc5/6 double-knockout mice. Finally, electron microscopy revealed that podocytes of glomeruli isolated from Trpc6-knockout or Trpc5/6 double-knockout mice were protected from damage induced by H2O2 to the same extent.Conclusions These data reveal a novel signaling mechanism involving NOX4 and TRPC6 in podocytes that could be pharmacologically targeted to abate the development of DKD.
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:Unbiased transcriptome profiling and functional genomics approaches identified glucocorticoid-induced transcript 1 (GLCCI1) as being a transcript highly specific for the glomerulus, but its role in glomerular development and disease is unknown. Here, we report that mouse glomeruli express far greater amounts of Glcci1 protein compared with the rest of the kidney. RT-PCR and Western blotting demonstrated that mouse glomerular Glcci1 is approximately 60 kD and localizes to the cytoplasm of podocytes in mature glomeruli. In the fetal kidney, intense Glcci1 expression occurs at the capillary-loop stage of glomerular development. Using gene knockdown in zebrafish with morpholinos, morphants lacking Glcci1 function had collapsed glomeruli with foot-process effacement. Permeability studies of the glomerular filtration barrier in these zebrafish morphants demonstrated a disruption of the selective glomerular permeability filter. Taken together, these data suggest that Glcci1 promotes the normal development and maintenance of podocyte structure and function.
Project description:Nitric Oxide (NO), a potent vasodilator and vital signaling molecule, has been shown to contribute to the regulation of glomerular ultrafiltration. However, whether changes in NO occur in podocytes during the pathogenesis of salt-sensitive hypertension has not yet been thoroughly examined. We showed here that podocytes produce NO, and further hypothesized that hypertensive animals would exhibit reduced NO production in these cells in response to various paracrine factors, which might contribute to the damage of glomeruli filtration barrier and development of proteinuria. To test this, we isolated glomeruli from the kidneys of Dahl salt-sensitive (SS) rats fed a low salt (LS; 0.4% NaCl) or high salt (HS; 4% NaCl, 3 weeks) diets and loaded podocytes with either a combination of NO and Ca2+ fluorophores (DAF-FM and Fura Red, respectively) or DAF-FM alone. Changes in fluorescence were observed with confocal microscopy in response to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), angiotensin II (Ang II), and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Application of Ang II resulted in activation of both NO and intracellular calcium ([Ca2+]i) transients. In contrast, ATP promoted [Ca2+]i transients, but did not have any effects on NO production. SS rats fed a HS diet for 3 weeks demonstrated impaired NO production: the response to Ang II or H2O2 in podocytes of glomeruli isolated from SS rats fed a HS diet was significantly reduced compared to rats fed a LS diet. Therefore, glomerular podocytes from hypertensive rats showed a diminished NO release in response to Ang II or oxidative stress, suggesting that podocytic NO signaling is dysfunctional in this condition and likely contributes to the development of kidney injury.
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:Dedifferentiation and loss of podocytes are the major cause of chronic kidney disease. Dach1, a transcription factor that is essential for cell fate, was found in genome-wide association studies to be associated with the glomerular filtration rate. We found that podocytes express high levels of Dach1 in vivo and to a much lower extent in vitro. Parietal epithelial cells (PECs) that are still under debate to be a type of progenitor cell for podocytes expressed Dach1 only at low levels. The transfection of PECs with a plasmid encoding for Dach1 induced the expression of synaptopodin, a podocyte-specific protein, demonstrated by immunocytochemistry and Western blot. Furthermore, synaptopodin was located along actin fibres in a punctate pattern in Dach1-expressing PECs comparable with differentiated podocytes. Moreover, dedifferentiating podocytes of isolated glomeruli showed a significant reduction in the expression of Dach1 together with synaptopodin after 9 days in cell culture. To study the role of Dach1 in vivo, we used the zebrafish larva as an animal model. Knockdown of the zebrafish ortholog Dachd by morpholino injection into fertilized eggs resulted in a severe renal phenotype. The glomeruli of the zebrafish larvae showed morphological changes of the glomerulus accompanied by down-regulation of nephrin and leakage of the filtration barrier. Interestingly, glomeruli of biopsies from patients suffering from diabetic nephropathy showed also a significant reduction of Dach1 and synaptopodin in contrast to control biopsies. Taken together, Dach1 is a transcription factor that is important for podocyte differentiation and proper kidney function.
Project description:Podocytes have a unique structure that supports glomerular filtration function, and many glomerular diseases result in loss of this structure, leading to podocyte dysfunction and ESRD (end stage renal disease). These structural and functional changes involve a complex set of molecular and cellular mechanisms that remain poorly understood. To understand the molecular signature of podocyte injury, we performed transcriptome analysis of cultured human podocytes injured either with PAN (puromycin aminonucleoside) or doxorubicin/adriamycin (ADR). The pathway analysis through DE (differential expression) and gene-enrichment analysis of the injured podocytes showed Tumor protein p53 (P53) as one of the major signaling pathways that was significantly upregulated upon podocyte injury. Accordingly, P53 expression was also up-regulated in the glomeruli of nephrotoxic serum (NTS) and ADR-injured mice. To further confirm these observations, cultured podocytes were treated with the P53 inhibitor pifithrin-?, which showed significant protection from ADR-induced actin cytoskeleton damage. In conclusion, signaling pathways that are involved in podocyte pathogenesis and can be therapeutically targeted were identified by high-throughput transcriptomic analysis of injured podocytes.