Alternatively Spliced Landscape of PPARγ mRNA in Podocytes Is Distinct from Adipose Tissue

Cells. 2022 Nov 1;11(21):3455. doi: 10.3390/cells11213455.


Podocytes are highly differentiated epithelial cells, and their structural and functional integrity is compromised in a majority of glomerular and renal diseases, leading to proteinuria, chronic kidney disease, and kidney failure. Traditional agonists (e.g., pioglitazone) and selective modulators (e.g., GQ-16) of peroxisome-proliferator-activated-receptor-γ (PPARγ) reduce proteinuria in animal models of glomerular disease and protect podocytes from injury via PPARγ activation. This indicates a pivotal role for PPARγ in maintaining glomerular function through preservation of podocytes distinct from its well-understood role in driving insulin sensitivity and adipogenesis. While its transcriptional role in activating adipokines and adipogenic genes is well-established in adipose tissue, liver and muscle, understanding of podocyte PPARγ signaling remains limited. We performed a comprehensive analysis of PPARγ mRNA variants due to alternative splicing, in human podocytes and compared with adipose tissue. We found that podocytes express the ubiquitous PPARγ Var 1 (encoding γ1) and not Var2 (encoding γ2), which is mostly restricted to adipose tissue and liver. Additionally, we detected expression at very low level of Var4, and barely detectable levels of other variants, Var3, Var11, VartORF4 and Var9, in podocytes. Furthermore, a distinct podocyte vs. adipocyte PPAR-promoter-response-element containing gene expression, enrichment and pathway signature was observed, suggesting differential regulation by podocyte specific PPARγ1 variant, distinct from the adipocyte-specific γ2 variant. In summary, podocytes and glomeruli express several PPARγ variants, including Var1 (γ1) and excluding adipocyte-specific Var2 (γ2), which may have implications in podocyte specific signaling and pathophysiology. This suggests that that new selective PPARγ modulators can be potentially developed that will be able to distinguish between the two forms, γ1 and γ2, thus forming a basis of novel targeted therapeutic avenues.

Keywords: PPARγ; alternative splicing; glomerular disease; podocyte; proteinuria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • PPAR gamma / genetics
  • PPAR gamma / metabolism
  • Podocytes* / metabolism
  • Proteinuria / metabolism
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism


  • PPAR gamma
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Carrier Proteins

Grants and funding

This study was supported by the American Heart Association Career Development Award (CDA34110287), funds from Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) and Stony Brook University Renaissance School of Medicine to S.A.