Background: Slit diaphragms are intercellular junctions of podocytes of the renal glomerulus. The molecular composition of slit diaphragms is still elusive. Slit diaphragms are characterized by the presence of a wide intercellular space. The morphological feature is shared by desmosomes and adherens junctions, which contain members of the cadherin superfamily. Thus, we have hypothesized that some components of slit diaphragms belong to the cadherin superfamily. Consequently, we have isolated cDNA encoding FAT from reverse-transcribed (RT) glomerular cDNA by homology polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using primers based on conserved sequences in cadherin molecules. FAT is a novel member of the cadherin superfamily with 34 tandem cadherin-like extracellular repeats, and it closely resembles the Drosophila tumor suppressor fat.
Methods: Expression of FAT was examined in glomeruli of the adult rat kidney by the ribonuclease protection assay and in situ hybridization. To localize the FAT protein in podocytes minutely, we prepared affinity-purified antibody against FAT by immunizing rabbits against an oligopeptide corresponding to the C-terminal 20 amino acids.
Results: Expression of FAT mRNA was detected in total RNA from glomeruli. In situ hybridization revealed significant signals in podocytes. Western blot analysis using solubilized glomeruli showed a single band, in which the molecular weight was more than 500 kD. Immunostaining of cultured epithelial cells from rat kidney (NRK52E) revealed FAT accumulation in cell-cell contact sites. In the glomerulus, FAT staining was observed distinctly along glomerular capillary walls. Double-label immunostaining using monoclonal antibody against slit diaphragms (mAb 5-1-6) showed identical localization of anti-FAT antibody and mAb 5-1-6. Furthermore, the double-label immunogold technique with ultrathin cryosections demonstrated that gold particles for FAT cytoplasmic domain were located at the base of slit diaphragms labeled by mAb 5-1-6 and that the cytoplasmic domain of FAT colocalized with ZO-1, a cytoplasmic component associated with slit diaphragms.
Conclusion: The molecular structure of FAT and its colocalization with 5-1-6 antigen and ZO-1 indicate that FAT is a component of slit diaphragms.