Scientists Discover Key to Podocyte Injury and Progressive Kidney Disease

Researchers at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and Harvard Medical School have discovered an important molecular mechanism behind worsening kidney disease. In a disease such as FSGS, for example, the kidney filter membrane (also known as the slit diaphragm) is damaged, allowing proteins to leak into the urine. The initial damage causes further injury to the podocyte cells, which make up the filter membrane. The podocytes die, resulting in more proteinuria and scarring of the kidneys.  The researchers found that when filter membrane injury occurs, CD2AP—a protein important for podocyte survival and proper signaling in the filter membrane—splits and releases the protein dendrin. This increases activity of protease cathepsin L, or Catl, which then degrades CD2AP, continuing the cycle of damage.

The study’s senior author, Jochen Reiser, M.D., Ph.D., explained, “We knew that proteinuria is a risk for more and progressive renal disease, but now we understand a mechanism for how this is occurring. A healthy filter membrane regulates a healthy transcriptional program—both of which are altered in disease. The idea to improve not only proteinuria by rebuilding the slit diaphragm of podocytes, but also improve podocyte survival opens novel concepts for nephroprotection in otherwise progressive renal diseases, such as FSGS.”


Nephrologists Discover Key to Kidney Disease Progression, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, September 12, 2011

CD2AP in Mouse and Human Podocytes Controls a Proteolytic Program That Regulates Cytoskeletal Structure and Cellular Survival, JCI, The Journal of Clinical Investigation, October 3, 2011


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