Vascular endothelial growth factor, which is critical for blood vessel formation, is regulated by hypoxia inducible transcription factors (HIFs). A component of the E3 ubiquitin ligase complex, von Hippel-Lindau (VHL) facilitates oxygen-dependent polyubiquitination and proteasomal degradation of HIFalpha subunits. Hypothesizing that deletion of podocyte VHL would result in HIFalpha hyperstabilization, we crossed podocin promoter-Cre transgenic mice, which express Cre recombinase in podocytes beginning at the capillary loop stage of glomerular development, with floxed VHL mice. Vascular patterning and glomerular development appeared unaltered in progeny lacking podocyte VHL. However, urinalysis showed increased albumin excretion by 4 weeks when compared with wild-type littermates with several sever cases (>1000 microg/ml). Many glomerular ultrastructural changes were seen in mutants, including focal subendothelial delamination and widespread podocyte foot process broadening, and glomerular basement membranes (GBMs) were significantly thicker in 16-week-old mutants compared with controls. Moreover, immunoelectron microscopy showed ectopic deposition of collagen alpha1alpha2alpha1(IV) in GBM humps beneath podocytes. Significant increases in the number of Ki-67-positive mesangial cells were also found, but glomerular WT1 expression was significantly decreased, signifying podocyte death and/or de-differentiation. Indeed, expression profiling of mutant glomeruli suggested a negative regulatory feedback loop involving the HIFalpha prolyl hydroxylase, Egln3. In addition, the brain oxygen-binding protein, Neuroglobin, was induced in mutant podocytes. We conclude that podocyte VHL is required for normal maintenance of podocytes, GBM composition and ultrastructure, and glomerular barrier properties.