Podocyte-Specific Induction of Krüppel-Like Factor 15 Restores Differentiation Markers and Attenuates Kidney Injury in Proteinuric Kidney Disease

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2018 Oct;29(10):2529-2545. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2018030324. Epub 2018 Aug 24.


Background: Podocyte injury is the hallmark of proteinuric kidney diseases, such as FSGS and minimal change disease, and destabilization of the podocyte's actin cytoskeleton contributes to podocyte dysfunction in many of these conditions. Although agents, such as glucocorticoids and cyclosporin, stabilize the actin cytoskeleton, systemic toxicity hinders chronic use. We previously showed that loss of the kidney-enriched zinc finger transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 15 (KLF15) increases susceptibility to proteinuric kidney disease and attenuates the salutary effects of retinoic acid and glucocorticoids in the podocyte.

Methods: We induced podocyte-specific KLF15 in two proteinuric murine models, HIV-1 transgenic (Tg26) mice and adriamycin (ADR)-induced nephropathy, and used RNA sequencing of isolated glomeruli and subsequent enrichment analysis to investigate pathways mediated by podocyte-specific KLF15 in Tg26 mice. We also explored in cultured human podocytes the potential mediating role of Wilms Tumor 1 (WT1), a transcription factor critical for podocyte differentiation.

Results: In Tg26 mice, inducing podocyte-specific KLF15 attenuated podocyte injury, glomerulosclerosis, tubulointerstitial fibrosis, and inflammation, while improving renal function and overall survival; it also attenuated podocyte injury in ADR-treated mice. Enrichment analysis of RNA sequencing from the Tg26 mouse model shows that KLF15 induction activates pathways involved in stabilization of actin cytoskeleton, focal adhesion, and podocyte differentiation. Transcription factor enrichment analysis, with further experimental validation, suggests that KLF15 activity is in part mediated by WT1.

Conclusions: Inducing podocyte-specific KLF15 attenuates kidney injury by directly and indirectly upregulating genes critical for podocyte differentiation, suggesting that KLF15 induction might be a potential strategy for treating proteinuric kidney disease.

Keywords: Krüppel-like factor; glomerulosclerosis; kidney disease; podocytes; proteinuria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Actin Cytoskeleton / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / biosynthesis*
  • DNA-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Focal Adhesions
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / genetics
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / metabolism
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / pathology
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / genetics
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism*
  • Kidney Diseases / pathology
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Nephrosis, Lipoid / genetics
  • Nephrosis, Lipoid / metabolism
  • Nephrosis, Lipoid / pathology
  • Nuclear Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nuclear Proteins / genetics
  • Nuclear Proteins / metabolism
  • Podocytes / metabolism*
  • Podocytes / pathology
  • Proteinuria / genetics
  • Proteinuria / metabolism*
  • Proteinuria / pathology
  • Transcription Factors / biosynthesis*
  • Transcription Factors / genetics
  • Up-Regulation
  • WT1 Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • WT1 Proteins / genetics
  • WT1 Proteins / metabolism


  • DNA-Binding Proteins
  • KLF15 protein, human
  • Klf15 protein, mouse
  • Kruppel-Like Transcription Factors
  • Nuclear Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • WT1 Proteins
  • WT1 protein, human