Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Nephrin and the Pathogenesis of Nephropathy - Emphasis on Type I Diabetes

Petri Aaltonen

Doctoral dissertation, May 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Haartman Institute, Department of Bacteriology and Immunology and Biomedicum Helsinki.

End-stage renal disease is an increasingly common pathologic condition, with a current incidence of 87 per million inhabitants in Finland. It is the end point of various nephropathies, most common of which is the diabetic nephropathy. This thesis focuses on exploring the role of nephrin in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy. Nephrin is a protein of the glomerular epithelial cell, or podocyte, and it appears to have a crucial function as a component of the filtration slit diaphragm in the kidney glomeruli. Mutations in the nephrin gene NPHS1 lead to massive proteinuria. Along with the originally described location in the podocyte, nephrin has now been found to be expressed in the brain, testis, placenta and pancreatic beta cells. In type 1 diabetes, the fundamental pathologic event is the autoimmune destruction of the beta cells. Autoantibodies against various beta cell antigens are generated during this process. Due to the location of nephrin in the beta cell, we hypothesized that patients with type 1 diabetes may present with nephrin autoantibodies. We also wanted to test whether such autoantibodies could be involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy.

The puromycin aminonucleoside nephrosis model in the rat, the streptozotocin model in the rat, and the non-obese diabetic mice were studied by immunochemical techniques, in situ -hybridization and the polymerase chain reaction -based methods to resolve the expression of nephrin mRNA and protein in experimental nephropathies. To test the effect of antiproteinuric therapies, streptozotocin-treated rats were also treated with aminoguanidine or perindopril. To detect nephrin antibodies we developed a radioimmunoprecipitation assay and analyzed follow-up material of 66 patients with type 1 diabetes.

In the puromycin aminonucleoside nephrosis model, the nephrin expression level was uniformly decreased together with the appearance of proteinuria. In the streptozotocin-treated rats and in non-obese diabetic mice, the nephrin mRNA and protein expression levels were seen to increase in the early stages of nephropathy. However, as observed in the streptozotocin rats, in prolonged diabetic nephropathy the expression level decreased. We also found out that treatment with perindopril could not only prevent proteinuria but also a decrease in nephrin expression in streptozotocin-treated rats. Aminoguanidine did not have an effect on nephrin expression, although it could attenuate the proteinuria.

Circulating antibodies to nephrin in patients with type 1 diabetes were found, although there was no correlation with the development of diabetic nephropathy. At diagnosis, 24% of the patients had these antibodies, while at 2, 5 and 10 years of disease duration the respective proportions were 23%, 14% and 18%. During the total follow-up of 16 to 19 years after diagnosis of diabetes, 14 patients had signs of nephropathy and 29% of them tested positive for nephrin autoantibodies in at least one sample.

In conclusion, this thesis work could show changes of nephrin expression along with the development of proteinuria. The autoantibodies against nephrin are likely generated in the autoimmune process leading to type 1 diabetes. However, according to the present work it is unlikely that these autoantibodies are contributing significantly to the development of diabetic nephropathy.

The title page of the publication

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Last updated 26.04.2006

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