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Pharmacogenetic podocyte depletion in zebrafish larvae as a model for focal segmental glomerulosclerosis

  • 80% of chronic kidney diseases are caused by the loss and the damage of a differentiated and postmitotic cell type, the podocytes. The size-selectivity of the blood filtration barrier is highly dependent on the complex interdigitation of the podocyte foot processes as well as of the slit membrane which is spanned in between. Changes of this specific morphology as well as a detachment of podocytes lead to the clinical hallmark of a nephrotic syndrome e.g. proteinuria and oedema formation. Since specific drugs or therapies are usually not available, patients are often dependent on dialysis and transplantation. Therefore, intensive studies are necessary to understand the pathogenesis of glomerulopathies as well as to identify specific drugs. In the past, it was already demonstrated that the zebrafish is an ideal model to study kidney function and to screen for drugs, since the larvae quickly develop a simple glomerulus that is comparable to the glomeruli of mice, rat and human. In the present work, a zebrafish model was established to study a specific glomerulopathy named focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). FSGS is mainly characterized by histology of the glomeruli which shows segmental scar formation and matrix deposition due to an activation of parietal epithelial cells (PEC) lining the Bowman’s capsule. For this purpose, we used the nitroreductase/metronidazole (NTR/MTZ) system, in which a cytotoxic agent is exclusively generated in podocytes by the enzyme NTR resulting in apoptosis of cells. Firstly, the parameters for development of an FSGS-like disease were evaluated and the glomerular response to podocyte depletion was examined during three days after the induction of podocyte damage. Using classic histological techniques, immunofluorescence staining and transmission electron microscopy, it was possible to demonstrate that zebrafish larvae phenocopy human FSGS in important characteristics after partial podocyte depletion. Secondly, by intravascular injection of fluorescence-labeled high molecular weight dextran, we found that the filtration barrier became leaky. Moreover, we identified a severe podocyte foot process effacement, formation of subpodocyte space pseudocysts and loss of the slit membrane protein podocin. Morphometrical, histological and ultrastructural analysis revealed an enlargement of the glomerulus, proliferation of cuboidal PECs and intraglomerular deposition of extracellular matrix components, all typical hallmarks of FSGS. Further, we observed adhesions between the parietal and the visceral glomerular cell layer forming sclerotic lesions. However, it remains still unclear whether an inflammatory response is involved in the development of sclerotic lesions. Our microscopic analysis provided some evidence for immigration of immunocompetent cells like neutrophils, presumably due to induction of apoptosis in our model. Taken together, in the present work a zebrafish model was established with characteristics of mammals FSGS which will be useful for pathomechanism studies as well as for drug screening.

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Author: Kerrin Ursula Ingeborg Hansen
Title Additional (German):Pharmakogenetische Podozytendepletion in Zebrafischlarven als Modell für Fokal-Segmentale Glomerulosklerose
Referee:Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Nicole Endlich, Prof. Dr. med. Hermann Pavenstädt
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Year of Completion:2021
Granting Institution:Universität Greifswald, Universitätsmedizin
Date of final exam:2022/04/04
Release Date:2022/06/14
Tag:disease model; focal segmental glomerulosclerosis; podocytes; zebrafish
GND Keyword:Zebrabärbling, Niere, Tiermodell
Page Number:43
Faculties:Universitätsmedizin / Institut für Anatomie und Zellbiologie
DDC class:600 Technik, Medizin, angewandte Wissenschaften / 610 Medizin und Gesundheit