Homodimerization and heterodimerization of the glomerular podocyte proteins nephrin and NEPH1

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2003 Apr;14(4):918-26. doi: 10.1097/01.asn.0000057853.05686.89.


Nephrin and NEPH1, the gene products of NPHS1 and NEPH1, are podocyte membrane proteins of the Ig superfamily. Similar to the nephrin knockout, mice lacking NEPH1 show severe proteinuria leading to perinatal death. To identify the ligand of NEPH1, the extracellular domain of NEPH1 was fused to human IgG. This NEPH1-Ig fusion protein labeled the glomerular capillary wall of mouse kidneys in a staining pattern identical to NEPH1 and nephrin, prompting speculation that that NEPH1 might form homodimers and/or heterodimers with nephrin. In coimmunoprecipitation and pull-down assays, the NEPH1-Ig fusion protein precipitated wild-type NEPH1 from overexpressing HEK 293T cells. Truncational analysis revealed that the adhesive properties were not confined to a single Ig domain of NEPH1. Fusion proteins containing two Ig domains of NEPH1 were sufficient to immobilize NEPH1, but they failed to interact with control protein containing the phylogenetically related PKD repeats of polycystin-1. NEPH1 also precipitated nephrin, a protein with eight Ig domains and a fibronectin-like domain. Truncational analysis of nephrin revealed a very similar mode of interaction, i.e., two nephrin Ig domains fused to human IgG precipitated either nephrin or NEPH1, but not the control protein. Both NEPH1 and nephrin interactions were strictly dependent upon posttranslational glycosylation, and bacterially expressed protein failed to bind NEPH1. These findings demonstrate that the Ig domains of NEPH1 and nephrin form promiscuous homodimeric and heterodimeric interactions that may facilitate cis- and trans- homodimerizations and heterodimerizations of these molecules at the glomerular slit diaphragm.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cell Wall / metabolism
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dimerization
  • Kidney Glomerulus / metabolism*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Precipitin Tests
  • Proteins / metabolism*
  • Proteinuria / metabolism
  • Proteinuria / physiopathology*


  • Kirrel1 protein, mouse
  • Ligands
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Proteins
  • nephrin