A Heterologous Model of Thrombospondin Type 1 Domain-Containing 7A-Associated Membranous Nephropathy

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2017 Nov;28(11):3262-3277. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2017010030. Epub 2017 Aug 16.


Thrombospondin type 1 domain-containing 7A (THSD7A) is a target for autoimmunity in patients with membranous nephropathy (MN). Circulating autoantibodies from patients with THSD7A-associated MN have been demonstrated to cause MN in mice. However, THSD7A-associated MN is a rare disease, preventing the use of patient antibodies for larger experimental procedures. Therefore, we generated antibodies against the human and mouse orthologs of THSD7A in rabbits by coimmunization with the respective cDNAs. Injection of these anti-THSD7A antibodies into mice induced a severe nephrotic syndrome with proteinuria, weight gain, and hyperlipidemia. Immunofluorescence analyses revealed granular antigen-antibody complexes in a subepithelial location along the glomerular filtration barrier 14 days after antibody injection, and immunohistochemistry for rabbit IgG and THSD7A as well as ultrastructural analyses showed the typical characteristics of human MN. Mice injected with purified IgG from rabbit serum that was taken before immunization failed to develop any of these changes. Notably, MN developed in the absence of detectable complement activation, and disease was strain dependent. In vitro, anti-THSD7A antibodies caused cytoskeletal rearrangement and activation of focal adhesion signaling. Knockdown of the THSD7A ortholog, thsd7aa, in zebrafish larvae resulted in altered podocyte differentiation and impaired glomerular filtration barrier function, with development of pericardial edema, suggesting an important role of THSD7A in glomerular filtration barrier integrity. In summary, our study introduces a heterologous mouse model that allows further investigation of the molecular events that underlie MN.

Keywords: glomerular disease; membranous nephropathy; podocyte.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies / physiology*
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology*
  • Antigens, Surface / physiology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranous / immunology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Membrane Proteins / immunology*
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Rabbits
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Thrombospondins / immunology*
  • Thrombospondins / physiology


  • Antibodies
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Membrane Proteins
  • THSD7A protein, human
  • Thrombospondins
  • Thsd7A protein, mouse