Podocytes are highly differentiated kidney cells playing an important role in maintaining the glomerular filtration barrier. Particularly, the integrity of the actin cytoskeleton is crucial as cytoskeletal damage associated with foot process effacement and loss of slit diaphragms constitutes a major aspect of proteinuria. Previously, the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) was linked to actin regulation and aberrant activity of the kinase was associated with renal disease. In this study, actin-related effects of mTOR inhibition by the immunosuppressant everolimus (EV) were investigated in human podocytes using an in vitro model of puromycin aminonucleoside (PAN) induced proteinuria. EV substantially recovered aberrant podocyte behavior by re-establishing a stationary phenotype with decreased migration efficiency, enhanced cell adhesion and recovery of actin stress fibers. Biochemical studies revealed substantial increase in the activity of RhoA and the effector pathway Rho-associated protein kinase (ROCK) and myosin light chain (MLC) by EV, all known regulators of stress fiber generation. Taken together, we show for the first time cytoskeleton stabilizing effects of the mTOR inhibitor EV and establish RhoA signaling as a key mediator in this process.
Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that women have a significantly better prognosis in chronic renal diseases compared to men. This suggests critical influences of gender hormones on glomerular structure and function. We examined potential direct protective effects of estradiol on podocytes.
Paracrine signaling between podocytes and glomerular endothelial cells through vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGFA) maintains a functional glomerular filtration barrier. Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs), located on the cell surface or in the extracellular matrix, bind signaling molecules such as VEGFA and affect their local concentrations, but whether modulation of these moieties promotes normal crosstalk between podocytes and endothelial cells is unknown. Here, we found that the transcription factor Wilms Tumor 1 (WT1) modulates VEGFA and FGF2 signaling by increasing the expression of the 6-O-endosulfatases Sulf1 and Sulf2, which remodel the heparan sulfate 6-O-sulfation pattern in the extracellular matrix. Mice deficient in both Sulf1 and Sulf2 developed age-dependent proteinuria as a result of ultrastructural abnormalities in podocytes and endothelial cells, a phenotype similar to that observed in children with WT1 mutations and in Wt1(+/-) mice. These kidney defects associated with a decreased distribution of VEGFA in the glomerular basement membrane and on endothelial cells. Collectively, these data suggest that WT1-dependent sulfatase expression plays a critical role in maintaining the glomerular filtration barrier by modulating the bioavailability of growth factors, thereby promoting normal crosstalk between podocytes and endothelial cells.
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