Diseases of the glomerular basement membrane (GBM), such as Goodpasture's disease (GP) and Alport syndrome (AS), are a major cause of chronic kidney failure and an unmet medical need. Collagen IVα345 is an important architectural element of the GBM that was discovered in previous research on GP and AS. How this collagen enables GBM to function as a permselective filter and how structural defects cause renal failure remain an enigma. We found a distinctive genetic variant of collagen IVα345 in both a familial GP case and four AS kindreds that provided insights into these mechanisms. The variant is an 8-residue appendage at the C-terminus of the α3 subunit of the α345 hexamer. A knock-in mouse harboring the variant displayed GBM abnormalities and proteinuria. This pathology phenocopied AS, which pinpointed the α345 hexamer as a focal point in GBM function and dysfunction. Crystallography and assembly studies revealed underlying hexamer mechanisms, as described in Boudko et al. and Pedchenko et al. Bioactive sites on the hexamer surface were identified where pathogenic pathways of GP and AS converge and, potentially, that of diabetic nephropathy (DN). We conclude that the hexamer functions include signaling and organizing macromolecular complexes, which enable GBM assembly and function. Therapeutic modulation or replacement of α345 hexamer could therefore be a potential treatment for GBM diseases, and this knock-in mouse model is suitable for developing gene therapies.
Keywords: animal model; collagen; diabetic nephropathy; extracellular matrix; genetic disease.
Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.