Purpose of review: The functioning kidney requires proper organization in multiple cell types that mediate filtration and removal of wastes. Interest has increasingly focused on the podocyte as an important mediator of kidney function; defects in podocyte function likely mediate a broad palate of kidney dysfunctions. Here I explore recent work that establishes the Drosophila nephrocyte as a useful model for podocyte function and dysfunction.
Recent findings: Although described many decades in the past, recent evidence has emphasized important similarities in the molecules that construct the 'nephrocyte diaphragm' and its vertebrate cousin the 'podocyte diaphragm'. For example, loss of Nephrin and its associated proteins lead to collapse of these structures and loss of proper filtration.
Summary: These data emphasize both differences between the podocyte and nephrocyte and also useful similarities. These similarities provide the promise of bringing Drosophila genetics--strongly successful in other disciplines--to the complex problem of how podocyte dysfunction leads to disease. To further explore this point I discuss work on Nephrin in a better understood tissue, the Drosophila eye, in which the role of Nephrin and its connection to actin dynamics is under intense study.