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Endocytosis of albumin by podocytes elicits an inflammatory response and induces apoptotic cell death.

PLoS One. 2013;8(1):e54817

Authors: Okamura K, Dummer P, Kopp J, Qiu L, Levi M, Faubel S, Blaine J


The presence of albuminuria is strongly associated with progression of chronic kidney disease. While albuminuria has been shown to injure renal proximal tubular cells, the effects of albumin on podocytes have been less well studied. We have addressed the hypothesis that exposure of podocytes to albumin initiates an injury response. We studied transformed human-urine derived podocytes-like epithelial cells (HUPECS, or podocytes). Upon differentiation, these cells retain certain characteristics of differentiated podocytes, including expression of synaptopodin, CD2AP, and nestin. We exposed podocytes to recombinant human albumin, which lacks lipids and proteins that bind serum albumin; this reagent allowed a direct examination of the effects of albumin. Podocytes endocytosed fluoresceinated albumin and this process was inhibited at 4°C, suggesting an energy-dependent process. Exposure to albumin at concentrations of 5 and 10 mg/ml was associated with increased cell death in a dose-dependent manner. The mechanism of cell death may involve apoptosis, as caspase 3/7 were activated and the pan-caspase inhibitor z-VAD reduced cell death. Albumin exposure also increased nuclear factor (NF)-κB activation and increased transcription and release of interleukin (IL-) 1β, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), and IL-6. We extended these findings to an in vivo model. Glomeruli isolated from mice with nephrotic syndrome also had increased expression of IL-1β and TNF RNA. These data suggest that while podocyte injury begets albuminuria, albumin in the glomerular ultrafiltrate may also beget podocyte injury. Thus, an additional mechanism by which anti-proteinuric therapies are beneficial in the treatment of glomerular diseases may be a reduction in injury to the podocyte by albumin.

PMID: 23382978 [PubMed - in process]