Bowman's capsule provides a protective niche for podocytes from cytotoxic CD8+ T cells

J Clin Invest. 2018 Aug 1;128(8):3413-3424. doi: 10.1172/JCI97879. Epub 2018 Jul 9.


T cells play a key role in immune-mediated glomerulonephritis, but how cytotoxic T cells interact with podocytes remains unclear. To address this, we injected EGFP-specific CD8+ T cells from just EGFP death inducing (Jedi) mice into transgenic mice with podocyte-specific expression of EGFP. In healthy mice, Jedi T cells could not access EGFP+ podocytes. Conversely, when we induced nephrotoxic serum nephritis (NTSN) and injected Jedi T cells, EGFP+ podocyte transgenic mice showed enhanced proteinuria and higher blood urea levels. Morphometric analysis showed greater loss of EGFP+ podocytes, which was associated with severe crescentic and necrotizing glomerulonephritis. Notably, only glomeruli with disrupted Bowman's capsule displayed massive CD8+ T cell infiltrates that were in direct contact with EGFP+ podocytes, causing their apoptosis. Thus, under control conditions with intact Bowman's capsule, podocytes are not accessible to CD8+ T cells. However, breaches in Bowman's capsule, as also noted in human crescentic glomerulonephritis, allow access of CD8+ T cells to the glomerular tuft and podocytes, resulting in their destruction. Through these mechanisms, a potentially reversible glomerulonephritis undergoes an augmentation process to a rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis, leading to end-stage kidney disease. Translating these mechanistic insights to human crescentic nephritis should direct future therapeutic interventions at blocking CD8+ T cells, especially in progressive stages of rapidly progressive glomerulonephritis.

Keywords: Chronic kidney disease; Immunology; Nephrology; T cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bowman Capsule / immunology*
  • Bowman Capsule / pathology
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / immunology*
  • CD8-Positive T-Lymphocytes / pathology
  • Glomerulonephritis / genetics
  • Glomerulonephritis / immunology*
  • Glomerulonephritis / pathology
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / genetics
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / immunology*
  • Kidney Failure, Chronic / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Podocytes / immunology*
  • Podocytes / pathology