Podocyte mitosis - a catastrophe

Curr Mol Med. 2013 Jan;13(1):13-23. doi: 10.2174/1566524011307010013.


Podocyte loss plays a key role in the progression of glomerular disorders towards glomerulosclerosis and chronic kidney disease. Podocytes form unique cytoplasmic extensions, foot processes, which attach to the outer surface of the glomerular basement membrane and interdigitate with neighboring podocytes to form the slit diaphragm. Maintaining these sophisticated structural elements requires an intricate actin cytoskeleton. Genetic, mechanic, and immunologic or toxic forms of podocyte injury can cause podocyte loss, which causes glomerular filtration barrier dysfunction, leading to proteinuria. Cell migration and cell division are two processes that require a rearrangement of the actin cytoskeleton; this rearrangement would disrupt the podocyte foot processes, therefore, podocytes have a limited capacity to divide or migrate. Indeed, all cells need to rearrange their actin cytoskeleton to assemble a correct mitotic spindle and to complete mitosis. Podocytes, even when being forced to bypass cell cycle checkpoints to initiate DNA synthesis and chromosome segregation, cannot complete cytokinesis efficiently and thus usually generate aneuploid podocytes. Such aneuploid podocytes rapidly detach and die, a process referred to as mitotic catastrophe. Thus, detached or dead podocytes cannot be adequately replaced by the proliferation of adjacent podocytes. However, even glomerular disorders with severe podocyte injury can undergo regression and remission, suggesting alternative mechanisms to compensate for podocyte loss, such as podocyte hypertrophy or podocyte regeneration from resident renal progenitor cells. Together, mitosis of the terminally differentiated podocyte rather accelerates podocyte loss and therefore glomerulosclerosis. Finding ways to enhance podocyte regeneration from other sources remains a challenge goal to improve the treatment of chronic kidney disease in the future.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actins / genetics
  • Actins / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cytoskeleton / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / cytology
  • Mitosis*
  • Podocytes / cytology
  • Podocytes / pathology*
  • Podocytes / physiology*
  • Stem Cells / metabolism


  • Actins