New frontiers to cure Alport syndrome: COL4A3 and COL4A5 gene editing in podocyte-lineage cells

Eur J Hum Genet. 2020 Apr;28(4):480-490. doi: 10.1038/s41431-019-0537-8. Epub 2019 Nov 21.


Alport syndrome (AS) is an inherited genetic disorder characterized by range of alterations from glomerular basement membrane abnormalities up to end-stage renal disease. Pathogenic variants in the collagen α3, α4, and α5 encoding genes are causative both of the autosomal dominant and of the X-linked forms of AS. Podocytes are the only renal cells that are able to produce the COL(IV)a3-a4a5 heterotrimer. We have previously demonstrated how it is possible to isolate podocyte-lineage cells from urine of patients, providing an easily accessible cellular model closer to the podocytes' physiological conditions. Taking advantage of disease-relevant cell lines, we employed a two-plasmid approach in order to achieve a beneficial and stable variant-specific correction using CRISPR/Cas9 genome editing. One plasmid carries a Donor DNA and a reporter system mCherry/GFP to track the activity of Cas9 in cells. The other plasmid carries a self-cleaving SpCas9 and the variant-specific sgRNA. We have analyzed two stable podocyte-lineage cell lines, harboring a variant in the X-linked COL4A5 (p.(Gly624Asp)) and in the autosomal COL4A3 gene (p.(Gly856Glu)). We have achieved reversion of variants greater than 40% with undesired insertions/deletions lower than 15%. Overall, we have demonstrated a new gene therapy approach directly on patients' cells, key players of Alport pathogenesis, and we have reverted COL4 causative variants towards the wild type state. These results, in combination with preclinical models, could open new frontiers in the management and the treatment of the disorder.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autoantigens / genetics*
  • Autoantigens / metabolism
  • CRISPR-Cas Systems
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen Type IV / genetics*
  • Collagen Type IV / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Editing / methods*
  • Genetic Therapy / methods
  • Humans
  • Mutation
  • Nephritis, Hereditary / genetics*
  • Nephritis, Hereditary / pathology
  • Nephritis, Hereditary / therapy
  • Podocytes / cytology
  • Podocytes / metabolism*


  • Autoantigens
  • COL4A5 protein, human
  • Collagen Type IV
  • type IV collagen alpha3 chain