Podocytes are highly specialized epithelial cells that line the urinary surface of the glomerular capillary tuft. To maintain kidney filtration, podocytes oppose the high intraglomerular hydrostatic pressure, form a molecular sieve, secrete soluble factors to regulate other glomerular cell types, and provide synthesis and maintenance of the glomerular basement membrane. Impairment of any of these functions after podocyte injury results in proteinuria and possibly renal failure. Loss of glomerular podocytes is a key feature for the progression of renal diseases, and detached podocytes can be retrieved in the urine of patients with progressive glomerular diseases. Thus, the concept of podocyte loss as a hallmark of progressive glomerular disease has been widely accepted. However, the nature of events that promote podocyte detachment and whether detachment is preceded by any kind of podocyte cell death, such as apoptosis, necroptosis, or necrosis, still remains unclear and is discussed in this review.
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