Aims/hypothesis: Changes in podocyte morphology and function are associated with albuminuria and progression of diabetic nephropathy. NADPH oxidase 4 (NOX4) is the main source of reactive oxygen species (ROS) in the kidney and Nox4 is upregulated in podocytes in response to high glucose. We assessed the role of NOX4-derived ROS in podocytes in vivo in a model of diabetic nephropathy using a podocyte-specific NOX4-deficient mouse, with a major focus on the development of albuminuria and ultra-glomerular structural damage.
Methods: Streptozotocin-induced diabetes-associated changes in renal structure and function were studied in male floxedNox4 and podocyte-specific, NOX4 knockout (podNox4KO) mice. We assessed albuminuria, glomerular extracellular matrix accumulation and glomerulosclerosis, and markers of ROS and inflammation, as well as glomerular basement membrane thickness, effacement of podocytes and expression of the podocyte-specific protein nephrin.
Results: Podocyte-specific Nox4 deletion in streptozotocin-induced diabetic mice attenuated albuminuria in association with reduced vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression and prevention of the diabetes-induced reduction in nephrin expression. In addition, podocyte-specific Nox4 deletion reduced glomerular accumulation of collagen IV and fibronectin, glomerulosclerosis and mesangial expansion, as well as glomerular basement membrane thickness. Furthermore, diabetes-induced increases in renal ROS, glomerular monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) and protein kinase C alpha (PKC-α) were attenuated in podocyte-specific NOX4-deficient mice.
Conclusions/interpretation: Collectively, this study shows the deleterious effect of Nox4 expression in podocytes by promoting podocytopathy in association with albuminuria and extracellular matrix accumulation in experimental diabetes, emphasising the role of NOX4 as a target for new renoprotective agents.
Keywords: Albuminuria; Diabetic nephropathy; Glomerular basement membrane; NADPH oxidase 4; Podocyte; Reactive oxygen species.