Podocytes undergo phenotypic changes and express macrophagic-associated markers in idiopathic collapsing glomerulopathy

Kidney Int. 1998 Apr;53(4):918-25. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1755.1998.00845.x.


Collapsing glomerulopathy (CG), a severe form of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSG), is characterized by tuft retraction and consolidation in numerous glomeruli and changes in podocyte morphology and topography. Other glomeruli are less affected. Collapsing glomerulopathy is also characterized by tubulointerstitial atrophy and fibrosis. The pathophysiology of the glomerular and tubulointerstitial lesions is poorly understood. We studied renal tissue of five Black and three White patients, all human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) negative, with nephrotic syndrome, renal failure, and histological evidence of CG. Immunohistochemistry identified normal podocyte phenotypes by podocalyxin, vimentin and complement receptor 1 (CR1) labeling. Three monoclonal antibodies were used to further characterize podocyte epitopes: anti-CD68 clone KP1, anti-CD68 clone PG-M1 and anti-M130 clone M18 (Ber-MAC3). Light microscopy of collapsed glomeruli showed podocyte swelling, vacuolization, multinucleation, "cobblestone-like" alignment around the glomerular tuft, and pseudo-crescent formation in Bowman's space. In collapsed glomeruli, podocalyxin, vimentin and CR1 labeling tagged both normal and vacuolated podocytes still attached to the GBM, but labeling was not found in cobblestone-like podocytes or in podocytes detached from the GBM. Conversely, numerous podocytes undergoing detachment and shedding into Bowman's space expressed macrophagic-associated epitopes. Cells with macrophagic-associated epitopes clumped in cystically dilated tubules and were aligned in tubules of smaller caliber. Their appearance was that of viable cells. There was no morphologic indication that these cells expressing macrophage-associated antigens originated from outside the glomeruli or outside the tubules. We conclude that in CG podocytes detach from the GBM, lose their normal podocytic phenotype and acquire macrophage differentiation antigens. The presence of cells with such antigens in tubular lumens suggests that detached metaplastic podocytes progress along the tubule or, alternatively, that CG tubular cells also undergo metaplastic changes into macrophage-like cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigen-Presenting Cells / cytology
  • Antigens, CD / analysis
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic / analysis
  • Biomarkers
  • Cell Differentiation / immunology
  • Epitopes / analysis
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Glomerular Mesangium / pathology*
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / immunology*
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Macrophages / chemistry*
  • Macrophages / cytology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sialoglycoproteins / analysis


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antigens, CD
  • Antigens, Differentiation, Myelomonocytic
  • Biomarkers
  • CD68 antigen, human
  • Epitopes
  • Sialoglycoproteins
  • podocalyxin