Helsingin yliopisto


Helsingin yliopiston verkkojulkaisut

University of Helsinki, Helsinki 2006

Podocyte molecules in the pancreas and lymphoid tissues and their association to autoimmunity of diabetes

Johanna Rinta-Valkama

Doctoral dissertation, December 2006.
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Medicine, Haartman Institute, Department of bacteriology and immunology.

Type 1 diabetes is a disease where the insulin-producing beta cells of the pancreas are destroyed by an autoimmune mechanism. The incidence of type 1 diabetes, as well as the incidence of the diabetic kidney complication, diabetic nephropathy, are increasing worldwide. Nephrin is a crucial molecule for the filtration function of the kidney. It localises in the podocyte foot processes partially forming the interpodocyte final sieve of the filtration barrier, the slit diaphragm. The expression of nephrin is altered in diabetic nephropathy.

Recently, nephrin was found from the beta cells of the pancreas as well, which makes this molecule interesting in the context of type 1 diabetes and especially in diabetic nephropathy. In this thesis work, the expression of other podocyte molecules in the beta cells of the pancreas, in addition to nephrin, were deciphered. It was also hypothesised that patients with type 1 diabetes may develop autoantibodies against novel beta cell molecules comparably to the formation of autoantibodies to GAD, IA-2 and insulin. The possible association of such novel autoantibodies with the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy was also assessed. Furthermore, expression of nephrin in lymphoid tissues has been suggested, and this issue was more thoroughly deciphered here.

The expression of nephrin in the human lymphoid tissues, and a set of podocyte molecules in the human, mouse and rat pancreas at the gene and protein level were studied by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) -based methods and immunochemical methods. To detect autoantibodies to novel beta cell molecules, specific radioimmunoprecipitation assays were developed. These assays were used to screen a follow-up material of 66 patients with type 1 diabetes and a patient material of 150 diabetic patients with signs of diabetic nephropathy.

Nephrin expression was detected in the lymphoid follicle germinal centres, specifically in the follicular dendritic cells. In addition to the previously reported expression of nephrin in the pancreas, expression of the podocyte molecules, densin, filtrin, FAT and alpha-actinin-4 were detected in the beta cells. Circulating antibodies to nephrin, densin and filtrin were discovered in a subset of patients with type 1 diabetes. However, no association of these autoantibodies with the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy was detected.

In conclusion, the expression of five podocyte molecules in the beta cells of the pancreas suggests some molecular similarities between the two cell types. The novel autoantibodies against shared molecules of the kidney podocytes and the pancreatic beta cells appear to be part of the common autoimmune mechanism in patients with type 1 diabetes. No data suggested that the autoantibodies would be active participants of the kidney injury detected in diabetic nephropathy.

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Last updated 04.12.2006

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