Stretch, tension and adhesion - adaptive mechanisms of the actin cytoskeleton in podocytes

Eur J Cell Biol. 2006 Apr;85(3-4):229-34. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcb.2005.09.006. Epub 2005 Oct 18.


Podocytes form an epithelial layer on the outer aspect of the basement membrane of glomerular capillaries. The interdigitating pattern of podocyte foot processes (PFPs) generates a unique and extremely long cell-cell contact area - the filtration slit. Thus, the interdigitating PFPs are the morphological basis for the high hydraulic conductivity of the glomerular capillaries. Any disturbance in this interdigitating pattern results in a drop of glomerular filtration rate impairing renal function. PFPs are based on the actin cytoskeleton, consisting of a subplasmalemmal network and a central core of filament bundles. Besides giving PFPs their morphology, the actin cytoskeleton anchors cell-cell contact and cell-matrix proteins in podocytes. Several human genetic diseases as well as transgenic mouse models provide evidence for the crucial role of the actin cytoskeleton in podocytes. Varying flow rates of the filtrate, increased glomerular capillary pressure in glomerular hypertension, and varying activation states of contractile proteins in PFPs impose a mechanical load on the actin cytoskeleton, challenging the intricate arrangement of PFPs and podocyte adhesion. Here we review data about the actin cytoskeleton of podocytes and the response of podocytes to mechanical load. From these data possible mechanisms are emerging how the actin cytoskeleton may allow podocytes to adapt to states of increased mechanical load.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / physiology*
  • Actin Cytoskeleton / ultrastructure
  • Animals
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Humans
  • Mechanotransduction, Cellular
  • Models, Biological
  • Podocytes / cytology
  • Podocytes / physiology
  • Podocytes / ultrastructure*
  • Stress, Mechanical