The glomerular basement membrane (GBM) is a critical component of the kidney's blood filtration barrier. Alport syndrome, a hereditary disease leading to kidney failure, is caused by the loss or dysfunction of the GBM's major collagen type IV (COL4) isoform α3α4α5. The constituent COL4 α-chains assemble into heterotrimers in the endoplasmic reticulum before secretion into the extracellular space. If any one of the α3-, α4-, or α5-chains is lost due to mutation of one of the genes, then the entire heterotrimer is lost. Patients with Alport syndrome typically have mutations in the X-linked COL4A5 gene or uncommonly have the autosomal recessive form of the disease due to COL4A3 or COL4A4 mutations. Treatment for Alport syndrome is currently limited to angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition or angiotensin receptor blockers. Experimental approaches in Alport mice have demonstrated that induced expression of COL4A3, either widely or specifically in podocytes of Col4a3-/- mice, can abrogate disease progression even after establishment of the abnormal GBM. While targeting podocytes in vivo for gene therapy is a significant challenge, the more accessible glomerular endothelium could be amenable for mutant gene repair. In the present study, we expressed COL4A3 in Col4a3-/- Alport mice using an endothelial cell-specific inducible transgenic system, but collagen-α3α4α5(IV) was not detected in the GBM or elsewhere, and the Alport phenotype was not rescued. Our results suggest that endothelial cells do not express the Col4a3/a4/a5 genes and should not be viewed as a target for gene therapy.
Keywords: Alport syndrome; collagen type IV; gene therapy; glomerular basement membrane; transgenic mouse.