Glomerular podocytes possess the synaptic vesicle molecule Rab3A and its specific effector rabphilin-3a

Am J Pathol. 2003 Sep;163(3):889-99. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63449-9.


Several recent studies have focused on similarities between glomerular podocytes and neurons because the two cells share a specialized cytoskeletal organization and several expression-restricted proteins, such as nephrin and synaptopodin. In neurons, the small guanosine triphosphatase Rab3A and its effector rabphilin-3A form a complex required for the correct docking of synaptic vesicles to their target membrane. Because rabphilin-3A binds in neurons to cytoskeletal proteins also important for podocyte homeostasis, and the complex rabphilin-3A-Rab3A has been demonstrated in neurons and neuroendocrine cells, the aim of our work was to investigate their possible expression and regulation in podocytes. Normal kidneys from mouse, rat, and human were studied by immunohistochemistry, Western blotting, and reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction to evaluate the expression of Rab3A and rabphilin-3A. Double-staining immunohistochemistry and immunogold electron microscopy were then used to precisely localize the two proteins at the cellular and subcellular levels. Rab-3A and rabphilin-3A regulations in disease were then analyzed in growth hormone-transgenic mice, a well established model of focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis, and in human biopsies from proteinuric patients. Our results demonstrated that rabphilin-3A and Rab3A are present in normal mouse, rat, and human kidneys, with an exclusively glomerular expression and a comma-like pattern of positivity along the glomerular capillary wall, suggestive for podocyte staining. Co-localization of both molecules with synaptopodin confirmed their presence in podocytes. By immunogold electron microscopy both proteins were found around vesicles contained in podocyte foot processes. Their expression was increased in growth hormone-transgenic mice compared to their wild-type counterpart, and in a subset of biopsies from proteinuric patients. Our data, demonstrating the presence of two synaptic proteins in podocytes, further supports similarities between cytoskeletal and vesicular organization of podocytes and neurons. The altered expression observed in mouse and human proteinuric diseases suggests a possible role for these molecules in glomerulopathies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kidney Glomerulus / cytology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Synaptic Vesicles / metabolism*
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • rab3A GTP-Binding Protein / metabolism*


  • Adaptor Proteins, Signal Transducing
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Vesicular Transport Proteins
  • rabphilin-3A
  • rab GTP-Binding Proteins
  • rab3A GTP-Binding Protein