Publications by authors named "Alessia Fornoni"

112 Publications

Could This Be Alport Syndrome?

Clin J Am Soc Nephrol 2021 Apr 13. Epub 2021 Apr 13.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, University of Miami, Miami, Florida

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http://dx.doi.org/10.2215/CJN.00120121DOI Listing
April 2021

APOL1 genotype-associated morphologic changes among patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.

Pediatr Nephrol 2021 Mar 1. Epub 2021 Mar 1.

Division of Pediatric Nephrology, Boston Children's Hospital, Enders 509 (Mail Stop BCH3100), 300 Longwood Ave, Boston, MA, 02115, USA.

Background: The G1 and G2 alleles of apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) are common in the Black population and associated with increased risk of focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). The molecular mechanisms linking APOL1 risk variants with FSGS are not clearly understood, and APOL1's natural absence in laboratory animals makes studying its pathobiology challenging.

Methods: In a cohort of 90 Black patients with either FSGS or minimal change disease (MCD) enrolled in the Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network (58% pediatric onset), we used kidney biopsy traits as an intermediate outcome to help illuminate tissue-based consequences of APOL1 risk variants and expression. We tested associations between APOL1 risk alleles or glomerular APOL1 mRNA expression and 83 light- or electron-microscopy traits measuring structural and cellular kidney changes.

Results: Under both recessive and dominant models in the FSGS patient subgroup (61%), APOL1 risk variants were significantly correlated (defined as FDR <0.1) with decreased global mesangial hypercellularity, decreased condensation of cytoskeleton, and increased tubular microcysts. No significant correlations were detected in MCD cohort. Independent of risk alleles, glomerular APOL1 expression in FSGS patients was not correlated with morphologic features.

Conclusions: While APOL1-associated FSGS is associated with two risk alleles, both one and two risk alleles are associated with cellular/tissue changes in this study of FSGS patients. Our lack of discovery of a large group of tissue differences in FSGS and no significant difference in MCD may be due to the lack of power but also supports investigating whether machine learning methods may more sensitively detect APOL1-associated changes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00467-021-04990-4DOI Listing
March 2021

APOL1 Risk Variants Affect Podocyte Lipid Homeostasis and Energy Production in Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis.

Hum Mol Genet 2021 Jan 30. Epub 2021 Jan 30.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, USA.

Lipotoxicity was recently reported in several forms of kidney disease, including focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Susceptibility to FSGS in African Americans is associated with the presence of genetic variants of the Apolipoprotein L1 gene (APOL1) named G1 and G2. If and how endogenous APOL1 may alter mitochondrial function by modifying cellular lipid metabolism is unknown. Using transgenic mice expressing the APOL1 variants (G0, G1 or G2) under endogenous promoter, we show that APOL1 risk variant expression in transgenic mice does not impair kidney function at baseline. However, APOL1 G1 expression worsens proteinuria and kidney function in mice characterized by the podocyte inducible expression of nuclear factor of activated T-cells (NFAT), which we have found to cause FSGS. APOL1 G1 expression in this FSGS-model also results in increased triglyceride and cholesterol ester contents in kidney cortices, where lipid accumulation correlated with loss of renal function. In vitro, we show that the expression of endogenous APOL1 G1/G2 in human urinary podocytes is associated with increased cellular triglyceride content and is accompanied by mitochondrial dysfunction in the presence of compensatory oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) complexes elevation. Our findings indicate that APOL1 risk variant expression increases the susceptibility to lipid-dependent podocyte injury, ultimately leading to mitochondrial dysfunction.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/hmg/ddab022DOI Listing
January 2021

Noninvasive assessment of radiation-induced renal injury in mice.

Int J Radiat Biol 2021 Mar 15:1-11. Epub 2021 Mar 15.

Department of Radiation Oncology, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, Miami, FL, USA.

Purpose: The kidney is a radiosensitive late-responding normal tissue. Injury is characterized by radiation nephropathy and decline of glomerular filtration rate (GFR). The current study aimed to compare two rapid and cost-effective methodologies of assessing GFR against more conventional biomarker measurements.

Methods: C57BL/6 mice were treated with bilateral focal X-irradiation (1x14Gy or 5x6Gy). Functional measurements of kidney injury were assessed 20 weeks post-treatment. GFR was estimated using a transcutaneous measurement of fluorescein-isothiocyanate conjugated (FITC)-sinistrin renal excretion and also dynamic contrast-enhanced CT imaging with a contrast agent (ISOVUE-300 Iopamidol).

Results: Hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) and Periodic acid-Schiff staining identified comparable radiation-induced glomerular atrophy and mesangial matrix accumulation after both radiation schedules, respectively, although the fractionated regimen resulted in less diffuse tubulointerstitial fibrosis. Albumin-to-creatinine ratios (ACR) increased after irradiation (1x14Gy: 100.4 ± 12.2 µg/mg; 6x5Gy: 80.4 ± 3.02 µg/mg) and were double that of nontreated controls (44.9 ± 3.64 µg/mg). GFR defined by both techniques was negatively correlated with BUN, mesangial expansion score, and serum creatinine. The FITC-sinistrin transcutaneous method was more rapid and can be used to assess GFR in conscious animals, dynamic contrast-enhanced CT imaging technique was equally safe and effective.

Conclusion: This study demonstrated that GFR measured by dynamic contrast-enhanced CT imaging is safe and effective compared to transcutaneous methodology to estimate kidney function.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09553002.2021.1876950DOI Listing
March 2021

Nicotine, smoking, podocytes, and diabetic nephropathy.

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 2021 03 18;320(3):F442-F453. Epub 2021 Jan 18.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida.

Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is the leading cause of end-stage kidney disease. Besides glycemic and blood pressure control, environmental factors such as cigarette smoking (CS) adversely affect the progression of DN. The effects of CS on DN progression have been attributed to combustion-generated molecules without consideration to the role of nicotine (NIC), responsible for the addictive properties of both CS and electronic cigarettes (ECs). Podocytes are essential to preserve the structure and function of the glomerular filtration barrier, and strong evidence indicates that early podocyte loss promotes DN progression. We performed experiments in human podocytes and in a mouse model of diabetes that develops nephropathy resembling human DN. We determined that NIC binding to podocytes in concentrations achieved with CS and ECs activated NADPH oxidase, which sets in motion a dysfunctional molecular network integrated by cyclooxygenase 2, known to induce podocyte injury; downregulation of AMP-activated protein kinase, important for maintaining cellular energy stores and antioxidation; and upregulation of CD36, which increased lipid uptake and promoted apoptosis. In diabetic mice, NIC increased proteinuria, a recognized marker of chronic kidney disease progression, accompanied by reduced glomerular podocyte synaptopodin, a crucial stabilizer of the podocyte cytoskeleton, and increased fibronectin expression. This novel study critically implicates NIC itself as a contributor to DN progression in CS and EC users. In this study, we demonstrate that nicotine increases the production of reactive oxygen species, increases cyclooxygenase-2 expression, and upregulates Cd36 while inducing downregulation of AMP-activated protein kinase. In vivo nicotine increases proteinuria and fibronectin expression in diabetic mice. This study demonstrates that effects of nicotine on podocytes are responsible, at least in part, for the deleterious effects of smoking in the progression of chronic kidney disease, including diabetic nephropathy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/ajprenal.00194.2020DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7988804PMC
March 2021

Sphingosine-1-Phosphate Metabolism and Signaling in Kidney Diseases.

J Am Soc Nephrol 2021 Jan 18;32(1):9-31. Epub 2020 Dec 18.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension/Peggy and Harold Katz Family Drug Discovery Center, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida

In the past few decades, sphingolipids and sphingolipid metabolites have gained attention because of their essential role in the pathogenesis and progression of kidney diseases. Studies in models of experimental and clinical nephropathies have described accumulation of sphingolipids and sphingolipid metabolites, and it has become clear that the intracellular sphingolipid composition of renal cells is an important determinant of renal function. Proper function of the glomerular filtration barrier depends heavily on the integrity of lipid rafts, which include sphingolipids as key components. In addition to contributing to the structural integrity of membranes, sphingolipid metabolites, such as sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), play important roles as second messengers regulating biologic processes, such as cell growth, differentiation, migration, and apoptosis. This review will focus on the role of S1P in renal cells and how aberrant extracellular and intracellular S1P signaling contributes to the pathogenesis and progression of kidney diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1681/ASN.2020050697DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7894665PMC
January 2021

Discoidin domain receptor 1 activation links extracellular matrix to podocyte lipotoxicity in Alport syndrome.

EBioMedicine 2021 Jan 16;63:103162. Epub 2020 Dec 16.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Drug Discovery center, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, 1580 NW 10th Ave, Miami, FL 33136, United States. Electronic address:

Background: Discoidin domain receptor 1 (DDR1) is a receptor tyrosine kinase that is activated by collagens that is involved in the pathogenesis of fibrotic disorders. Interestingly, de novo production of the collagen type I (Col I) has been observed in Col4a3 knockout mice, a mouse model of Alport Syndrome (AS mice). Deletion of the DDR1 in AS mice was shown to improve survival and renal function. However, the mechanisms driving DDR1-dependent fibrosis remain largely unknown.

Methods: Podocyte pDDR1 levels, Collagen and cluster of differentiation 36 (CD36) expression was analyzed by Real-time PCR and Western blot. Lipid droplet accumulation and content was determined using Bodipy staining and enzymatic analysis. CD36 and DDR1 interaction was determined by co-immunoprecipitation. Creatinine, BUN, albuminuria, lipid content, and histological and morphological assessment of kidneys harvested from AS mice treated with Ezetimibe and/or Ramipril or vehicle was performed.

Findings: We demonstrate that Col I-mediated DDR1 activation induces CD36-mediated podocyte lipotoxic injury. We show that Ezetimibe interferes with the CD36/DDR1 interaction in vitro and prevents lipotoxicity in AS mice thus preserving renal function similarly to ramipril.

Interpretation: Our study suggests that Col I/DDR1-mediated lipotoxicity contributes to renal failure in AS and that targeting this pathway may represent a new therapeutic strategy for patients with AS and with chronic kidney diseases (CKD) associated with Col4 mutations.

Funding: This study is supported by the NIH grants R01DK117599, R01DK104753, R01CA227493, U54DK083912, UM1DK100846, U01DK116101, UL1TR000460 (Miami Clinical Translational Science Institute, National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences and the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities), F32DK115109, Hoffmann-La Roche and Alport Syndrome Foundation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ebiom.2020.103162DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7750578PMC
January 2021

Modular Microphysiological System for Modeling of Biologic Barrier Function.

Front Bioeng Biotechnol 2020 12;8:581163. Epub 2020 Nov 12.

Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL, United States.

Microphysiological systems, also known as organs-on-chips, are microfluidic devices designed to model human physiology . Polydimethylsiloxane (PDMS) is the most widely used material for organs-on-chips due to established microfabrication methods, and properties that make it suitable for biological applications such as low cytotoxicity, optical transparency, gas permeability. However, absorption of small molecules and leaching of uncrosslinked oligomers might hinder the adoption of PDMS-based organs-on-chips for drug discovery assays. Here, we have engineered a modular, PDMS-free microphysiological system that is capable of recapitulating biologic barrier functions commonly demonstrated in PDMS-based devices. Our microphysiological system is comprised of a microfluidic chip to house cell cultures and pneumatic microfluidic pumps to drive flow with programmable pressure and shear stress. The modular architecture and programmable pumps enabled us to model multiple microenvironments. First, we demonstrate the ability to generate cyclic strain on the culture membrane and establish a model of the alveolar air-liquid interface. Next, we utilized three-dimensional finite element analysis modeling to characterize the fluid dynamics within the device and develop a model of the pressure-driven filtration that occurs at the glomerular filtration barrier. Finally, we demonstrate that our model can be used to recapitulate sphingolipid induced kidney injury. Together, our results demonstrate that a multifunctional and modular microphysiological system can be deployed without the use of PDMS. Further, the bio-inert plastic used in our microfluidic device is amenable to various established, high-throughput manufacturing techniques, such as injection molding. As a result, the development plastic organs-on-chips provides an avenue to meet the increasing demand for organ-on-chip technology.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fbioe.2020.581163DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7693638PMC
November 2020

Lipid Metabolism Gets in a JAML during Kidney Disease.

Cell Metab 2020 Dec;32(6):903-905

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA; Peggy and Harold Katz Family Drug Discovery Center, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL 33136, USA. Electronic address:

It is still unclear if the ability of key regulators of actin cytoskeletal remodeling to influence lipid metabolism contributes to kidney injury. In this issue of Cell Metabolism, Fu et al. (2020) show that junctional adhesion molecule-like (JAML) is a novel mediator of glomerular disease progression while suggesting a direct link between defects in cell adhesion and lipotoxicity.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cmet.2020.11.002DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7978490PMC
December 2020

Lipid deposition and metaflammation in diabetic kidney disease.

Curr Opin Pharmacol 2020 12 1;55:60-72. Epub 2020 Nov 1.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA; Peggy and Harold Katz Family Drug Discovery Center, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA. Electronic address:

A critical link between metabolic disorders and a form of low-grade systemic and chronic inflammation has been recently established and named 'Metaflammation'. Metaflammation has been recognized as a key mediator of both microvascular and macrovascular complications of diabetes and as a significant contributor to the development of diabetic kidney disease (DKD). The goal of this review is to summarize the contribution of diabetes-induced inflammation and the related signaling pathways to diabetic complications, with a particular focus on how innate immunity and lipid metabolism influence each other.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.coph.2020.09.004DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7769904PMC
December 2020

Longitudinal Changes in Health-Related Quality of Life in Primary Glomerular Disease: Results From the CureGN Study.

Kidney Int Rep 2020 Oct 23;5(10):1679-1689. Epub 2020 Jul 23.

Division of Nephrology, Providence Health Care, University of Washington, Spokane, Washington, USA.

Introduction: Prior cross-sectional studies suggest that health-related quality of life (HRQOL) worsens with more severe glomerular disease. This longitudinal analysis was conducted to assess changes in HRQOL with changing disease status.

Methods: Cure Glomerulonephropathy (CureGN) is a cohort of patients with minimal change disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, membranous nephropathy, IgA vasculitis, or IgA nephropathy. HRQOL was assessed at enrollment and follow-up visits 1 to 3 times annually for up to 5 years with the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System (PROMIS). Global health, anxiety, and fatigue domains were measured in all; mobility was measured in children; and sleep-related impairment was measured in adults. Linear mixed effects models were used to evaluate HRQOL responsiveness to changes in disease status.

Results: A total of 469 children and 1146 adults with PROMIS scores were included in the analysis. HRQOL improved over time in nearly all domains, though group-level changes were modest. Edema was most consistently associated with worse HRQOL across domains among children and adults. A greater number of symptoms also predicted worse HRQOL in all domains. Sex, age, obesity, and serum albumin were associated with some HRQOL domains. The estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) was only associated with fatigue and adult physical health; proteinuria was not associated with any HRQOL domain in adjusted models.

Conclusion: HRQOL measures were responsive to changes in disease activity, as indicated by edema. HRQOL over time was not predicted by laboratory-based markers of disease. Patient-reported edema and number of symptoms were the strongest predictors of HRQOL, highlighting the importance of the patient experience in glomerular disease. HRQOL outcomes inform understanding of the patient experience for children and adults with glomerular diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ekir.2020.06.041DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7569685PMC
October 2020

Bedside to bench Alport syndrome research: are human urine-derived podocytes the answer?.

J Pathol 2021 Jan 23;253(1):11-13. Epub 2020 Oct 23.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension/Peggy and Harold Katz Drug Discovery Center, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA.

In a recent issue of The Journal of Pathology, Iampietro et al isolated and characterized several clones of urine-derived podocytes from three patients with Alport syndrome (AS) and proteinuria and one age-matched non-proteinuric control. They reported differential expression of genes involved in cell motility, adhesion, survival, and angiogenesis. The authors found AS podocytes to be less motile and to have significantly higher permeability to albumin compared to control podocytes, highlighting that AS podocytes may retain their phenotype even when losing contact with the glomerular basement membrane. The establishment of urine-derived podocyte cell lines from patients with different genetic forms of AS may represent a valuable and minimally invasive tool to investigate the cellular mechanisms contributing to kidney disease progression in AS and may allow for the establishment of patient-specific drug screening opportunities. © 2020 The Pathological Society of Great Britain and Ireland. Published by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/path.5564DOI Listing
January 2021

Role of Sphingolipid Signaling in Glomerular Diseases: Focus on DKD and FSGS.

J Cell Signal 2020 Sep;1(3):56-69

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, USA.

Sphingolipids are well-recognized as major players in the pathogenesis of many human diseases, including chronic kidney disease. The kidney is a very sensitive organ to alterations in sphingolipid metabolism. The critical issues to be addressed in this review relate to the role of sphingolipids and enzymes involved in sphingolipid metabolism in the pathogenesis of glomerular diseases with a special focus on podocytes, a key cellular component of the glomerular filtration barrier. Among several sphingolipids, we will highlight the role of ceramide, sphingosine, sphingosine-1-phosphate and ceramide-1-phosphate. Additionally, we will summarize the current knowledge with regard to the use of sphingolipids as therapeutic agents for the treatment of podocyte injury in kidney disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.33696/Signaling.1.013DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7480905PMC
September 2020

The longitudinal relationship between patient-reported outcomes and clinical characteristics among patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis in the Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network.

Clin Kidney J 2020 Aug 5;13(4):597-606. Epub 2019 Aug 5.

Department of Pediatrics, Division of Nephrology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, USA.

Background: Understanding the relationship between clinical and patient-reported outcomes (PROs) will help support clinical care and future clinical trial design of novel therapies for focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS).

Methods: FSGS patients ≥8 years of age enrolled in the Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network completed Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Information System PRO measures of health-related quality of life (HRQoL) (children: global health, mobility, fatigue, pain interference, depression, anxiety, stress and peer relationships; adults: physical functioning, fatigue, pain interference, sleep impairment, mental health, depression, anxiety and social satisfaction) at baseline and during longitudinal follow-up for a maximum of 5 years. Linear mixed-effects models were used to determine which demographic, clinical and laboratory features were associated with PROs for each of the eight children and eight adults studied.

Results: There were 45 children and 114 adult FSGS patients enrolled that had at least one PRO assessment and 519 patient visits. Multivariable analyses among children found that edema was associated with global health (-7.6 points, P = 0.02) and mobility (-4.2, P = 0.02), the number of reported symptoms was associated with worse depression (-2.7 per symptom, P = 0.009) and anxiety (-2.3, P = 0.02) and the number of emergency room (ER) visits in the prior 6 months was associated with worse mobility (-2.8 per visit, P < 0.001) and fatigue (-2.4, P = 0.03). Multivariable analyses among adults found the number of reported symptoms was associated with worse function in all eight PROMIS measures and the number of ER visits was associated with worse fatigue, pain interference, sleep impairment, depression, anxiety and social satisfaction. Laboratory markers of disease severity (i.e. proteinuria, estimated glomerular filtration rate and serum albumin) did not predict PRO in multivariable analyses, with the single exception of complete remission and better pain interference scores among children (+9.3, P  0.03).

Conclusions: PROs provide important information about HRQoL for persons with FSGS that is not captured solely by the examination of laboratory-based markers of disease. However, it is critical that instruments capture the patient experience and FSGS clinical trials may benefit from a disease-specific instrument more sensitive to within-patient changes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ckj/sfz092DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7467600PMC
August 2020

Sterol-O-acyltransferase-1 has a role in kidney disease associated with diabetes and Alport syndrome.

Kidney Int 2020 11 30;98(5):1275-1285. Epub 2020 Jul 30.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, USA; Peggy and Harold Katz Family Drug Discovery Center, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, USA. Electronic address:

Defective cholesterol metabolism primarily linked to reduced ATP-binding cassette transporter A1 (ABCA1) expression is closely associated with the pathogenesis and progression of kidney diseases, including diabetic kidney disease and Alport Syndrome. However, whether the accumulation of free or esterified cholesterol contributes to progression in kidney disease remains unclear. Here, we demonstrate that inhibition of sterol-O-acyltransferase-1 (SOAT1), the enzyme at the endoplasmic reticulum that converts free cholesterol to cholesterol esters, which are then stored in lipid droplets, effectively reduced cholesterol ester and lipid droplet formation in human podocytes. Furthermore, we found that inhibition of SOAT1 in podocytes reduced lipotoxicity-mediated podocyte injury in diabetic kidney disease and Alport Syndrome in association with increased ABCA1 expression and ABCA1-mediated cholesterol efflux. In vivo, Soat1 deficient mice did not develop albuminuria or mesangial expansion at 10-12 months of age. However, Soat1 deficiency/inhibition in experimental models of diabetic kidney disease and Alport Syndrome reduced cholesterol ester content in kidney cortices and protected from disease progression. Thus, targeting SOAT1-mediated cholesterol metabolism may represent a new therapeutic strategy to treat kidney disease in patients with diabetic kidney disease and Alport Syndrome, like that suggested for Alzheimer's disease and cancer treatments.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.kint.2020.06.040DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7606642PMC
November 2020

The Vicious Cycle of Renal Lipotoxicity and Mitochondrial Dysfunction.

Front Physiol 2020 7;11:732. Epub 2020 Jul 7.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, United States.

The kidney is one of the most energy-demanding organs that require abundant and healthy mitochondria to maintain proper function. Increasing evidence suggests a strong association between mitochondrial dysfunction and chronic kidney diseases (CKDs). Lipids are not only important sources of energy but also essential components of mitochondrial membrane structures. Dysregulation of mitochondrial oxidative metabolism and increased reactive oxygen species (ROS) production lead to compromised mitochondrial lipid utilization, resulting in lipid accumulation and renal lipotoxicity. However, lipotoxicity can be either the cause or the consequence of mitochondrial dysfunction. Imbalanced lipid metabolism, in turn, can hamper mitochondrial dynamics, contributing to the alteration of mitochondrial lipids and reduction in mitochondrial function. In this review, we summarize the interplay between renal lipotoxicity and mitochondrial dysfunction, with a focus on glomerular diseases.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2020.00732DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7358947PMC
July 2020

Clinical trial recommendations for potential Alport syndrome therapies.

Kidney Int 2020 06 6;97(6):1109-1116. Epub 2020 Apr 6.

Department of Nephrology and Hypertension, The Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

Alport syndrome is experiencing a remarkable increase in preclinical investigations. To proactively address the needs of the Alport syndrome community, as well as offer clarity for future clinical research sponsors, the Alport Syndrome Foundation hosted a workshop to generate consensus recommendations for prospective trials for conventional drugs. Opinions of key stakeholders were carefully considered, including those of the biopharmaceutical industry representatives, academic researchers, clinicians, regulatory agency representatives, and-most critically-patients with Alport syndrome. Recommendations were established for preclinical researchers, the use and selection of biomarkers, standards of care, clinical trial designs, trial eligibility criteria and outcomes, pediatric trial considerations, and considerations for patient engagement, recruitment, and treatment. This paper outlines their recommendations.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.kint.2020.02.029DOI Listing
June 2020

Modulation of radiation-induced damage of human glomerular endothelial cells by SMPDL3B.

FASEB J 2020 06 15;34(6):7915-7926. Epub 2020 Apr 15.

Department of Radiation Oncology, Miller School of Medicine, Sylvester Cancer Center, University of Miami, Miami, FL, USA.

The intracellular molecular pathways involved in radiation-induced nephropathy are still poorly understood. Glomerular endothelial cells are key components of the structure and function of the glomerular filtration barrier but little is known about the mechanisms implicated in their injury and repair. The current study establishes the response of immortalized human glomerular endothelial cells (GEnC) to ionizing radiation (IR). We investigated the role of sphingolipids and the lipid-modifying enzyme sphingomyelin phosphodiesterase acid-like 3b (SMPDL3b) in radiation-induced GEnC damage. After delivering a single dose of radiation, long and very-long-chain ceramide species, and the expression levels of SMPDL3b were elevated. In contrast, levels of ceramide-1-phosphate (C1P) dropped in a time-dependent manner although mRNA and protein levels of ceramide kinase (CERK) remained stable. Treatment with C1P or knocking down SMPDL3b partially restored cell survival and conferred radioprotection. We also report a novel role for the NADPH oxidase enzymes (NOXs), namely NOX1, and NOX-derived reactive oxygen species (ROS) in radiation-induced GEnC damage. Subjecting cultured endothelial cells to radiation was associated with increased NOX activity and superoxide anion generation. Silencing NOX1 using NOX1-specific siRNA mitigated radiation-induced oxidative stress and cellular injury. In addition, we report a novel connection between NOX and SMPDL3b. Treatment with the NOX inhibitor, GKT, decreased radiation-induced cellular injury and restored SMPDL3b basal levels of expression. Our findings indicate the importance of SMPDL3b as a potential therapeutic target in radiation-induced kidney damage.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1096/fj.201902179RDOI Listing
June 2020

Long-term Kidney Transplantation Outcomes Network (APOLLO): Design and Rationale.

Kidney Int Rep 2020 Mar 13;5(3):278-288. Epub 2019 Dec 13.

Division of Nephrology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Introduction: Much of the higher risk for end-stage kidney disease (ESKD) in African American individuals relates to ancestry-specific variation in the apolipoprotein L1 gene (). Relative to kidneys from European American deceased-donors, kidneys from African American deceased-donors have shorter allograft survival and African American living-kidney donors more often develop ESKD. The National Institutes of Health (NIH)-sponsored Long-term Kidney Transplantation Outcomes Network (APOLLO) is prospectively assessing kidney allograft survival from donors with recent African ancestry based on donor and recipient genotypes.

Methods: APOLLO will evaluate outcomes from 2614 deceased kidney donor-recipient pairs, as well as additional living-kidney donor-recipient pairs and unpaired deceased-donor kidneys.

Results: The United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), Association of Organ Procurement Organizations, American Society of Transplantation, American Society for Histocompatibility and Immunogenetics, and nearly all U.S. kidney transplant programs, organ procurement organizations (OPOs), and histocompatibility laboratories are participating in this observational study. APOLLO employs a central institutional review board (cIRB) and maintains voluntary partnerships with OPOs and histocompatibility laboratories. A Community Advisory Council composed of African American individuals with a personal or family history of kidney disease has advised the NIH Project Office and Steering Committee since inception. UNOS is providing data for outcome analyses.

Conclusion: This article describes unique aspects of the protocol, design, and performance of APOLLO. Results will guide use of genotypic data to improve the assessment of quality in deceased-donor kidneys and could increase numbers of transplanted kidneys, reduce rates of discard, and improve the safety of living-kidney donation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ekir.2019.11.022DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7056919PMC
March 2020

The old becomes new: advances in imaging techniques to assess nephron mass in children.

Pediatr Nephrol 2021 Mar 17;36(3):517-525. Epub 2020 Jan 17.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA.

Renal imaging is widely used in the assessment of surrogate markers of nephron mass correlated to renal function. Autopsy studies have tested the validity of various imaging modalities in accurately estimating "true" nephron mass. However, in vivo assessment of nephron mass has been largely limited to kidney volume determination by ultrasonography (US) in pediatric populations. Practical limitations and risks create challenges in incorporating more precise 3D volumetric imaging, like magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and computed tomography (CT) technologies, compared to US for routine kidney volume assessment in children. Additionally, accounting for structural anomalies such as hydronephrosis when estimating renal parenchymal area in congenital anomalies of the kidney and urinary tract (CAKUT) is important, as it correlates with chronic kidney disease (CKD) progression. 3D imaging using CT and MRI has been shown to be superior to US, which has traditionally relied on 2D measurements to estimate kidney volume using the ellipsoid calculation. Recent innovations using 3D and contrast-enhanced US (CEUS) provide improved accuracy with low risk. Indexing kidney volume to body surface area in children is an important standard that may allow early detection of CKD progression in high-risk populations. This review highlights current understanding of various imaging modalities in assessing nephron mass, discusses applications and limitations, and describes recent advances in the field of imaging and kidney disease. Although renal imaging has been a long-standing, essential tool in assessing kidney disease, innovation and new applications of established technologies provide important tools in the study and management of kidney disease in children.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s00467-020-04477-8DOI Listing
March 2021

Crosstalk Between Lipids and Mitochondria in Diabetic Kidney Disease.

Curr Diab Rep 2019 11 21;19(12):144. Epub 2019 Nov 21.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, 1580 NW 10th Avenue, Miami, FL, USA.

Purpose Of Review: The goal of this review is to review the role that renal parenchymal lipid accumulation plays in contributing to diabetic kidney disease (DKD), specifically contributing to the mitochondrial dysfunction observed in glomerular renal cells in the context of DKD development and progression.

Recent Findings: Mitochondrial dysfunction has been observed in experimental and clinical DKD. Recently, Ayanga et al. demonstrate that podocyte-specific deletion of a protein involved in mitochondrial dynamics protects from DKD progression. Furthermore, our group has recently shown that ATP-binding cassette A1 (a protein involved in cholesterol and phospholipid efflux) is significantly reduced in clinical and experimental DKD and that genetic or pharmacological induction of ABCA1 is sufficient to protect from DKD. ABCA1 deficiency in podocytes leads to mitochondrial dysfunction observed with alterations of mitochondrial lipids, in particular, cardiolipin (a mitochondrial-specific phospholipid). However, through pharmacological reduction of cardiolipin peroxidation DKD progression is reverted. Lipid metabolism is significantly altered in the diabetic kidney and renders cellular components, such as the podocyte, susceptible to injury leading to worsened DKD progression. Dysfunction of the lipid metabolism pathway can also lead to mitochondrial dysfunction and mitochondrial lipid alteration. Future research aimed at targeting mitochondrial lipids content and function could prove to be beneficial for the treatment of DKD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11892-019-1263-xDOI Listing
November 2019

Identification of glomerular and podocyte-specific genes and pathways activated by sera of patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.

PLoS One 2019 3;14(10):e0222948. Epub 2019 Oct 3.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, Florida, United States of America.

Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) accounts for about 40% of all nephrotic syndrome cases in adults. The presence of several potential circulating factors has been suggested in patients with primary FSGS and particularly in patients with recurrent disease after transplant. Irrespectively of the nature of the circulating factors, this study was aimed at identifying early glomerular/podocyte-specific pathways that are activated by the sera of patients affected by FSGS. Kidney biopsies were obtained from patients undergoing kidney transplantation due to primary FSGS. Donor kidneys were biopsied pre-reperfusion (PreR) and a subset 1-2 hours after reperfusion of the kidney (PostR). Thirty-one post reperfusion (PostR) and 36 PreR biopsy samples were analyzed by microarray and gene enrichment KEGG pathway analysis. Data were compared to those obtained from patients with incident primary FSGS enrolled in other cohorts as well as with another cohort to correct for pathways activated by ischemia reperfusion. Using an ex-vivo cell-based assay in which human podocytes were cultured in the presence of sera from patients with recurrent and non recurrent FSGS, the molecular signature of podocytes exposed to sera from patients with REC was compared to the one established from patients with NON REC. We demonstrate that inflammatory pathways, including the TNF pathway, are primarily activated immediately after exposure to the sera of patients with primary FSGS, while phagocytotic pathways are activated when proteinuria becomes clinically evident. The TNF pathway activation by one or more circulating factors present in the sera of patients with FSGS supports prior experimental findings from our group demonstrating a causative role of local TNF in podocyte injury in FSGS. Correlation analysis with clinical and histological parameters of disease was performed and further supported a possible role for TNF pathway activation in FSGS. Additionally, we identified a unique set of genes that is specifically activated in podocytes when cultured in the presence of serum of patients with REC FSGS. This clinical translational study supports our prior experimental findings describing a potential role of the TNF pathway in the pathogenesis of FSGS. Validation of these findings in larger cohorts may lay the ground for the implementation of integrated system biology approaches to risk stratify patients affected by FSGS and to identify novel pathways relevant to podocyte injury.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0222948PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6776339PMC
March 2020

Lipid mediators of insulin signaling in diabetic kidney disease.

Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 2019 11 23;317(5):F1241-F1252. Epub 2019 Sep 23.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida.

Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) affects ∼40% of patients with diabetes and is associated with high mortality rates. Among different cellular targets in DKD, podocytes, highly specialized epithelial cells of the glomerular filtration barrier, are injured in the early stages of DKD. Both clinical and experimental data support the role of preserved insulin signaling as a major contributor to podocyte function and survival. However, little is known about the key modulators of podocyte insulin signaling. This review summarizes the novel knowledge that intracellular lipids such as cholesterol and sphingolipids are major determinants of podocyte insulin signaling. In particular, the implications of these lipids on DKD development, progression, and treatment will be addressed.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1152/ajprenal.00379.2019DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6879940PMC
November 2019

Regulation of the amount of ceramide-1-phosphate synthesized in differentiated human podocytes.

Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Biol Lipids 2019 12 2;1864(12):158517. Epub 2019 Sep 2.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA; Peggy and Harold Katz Family Drug Discovery Center, University of Miami, Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA. Electronic address:

Sphingolipids have important functions as structural components of cells but they also function as signaling molecules regulating different cellular processes such as apoptosis, cell proliferation, cell migration, cell division and inflammation. Hence, a tight regulation of the sphingolipid homeostasis is essential to maintain proper cellular functions. Mammalian ORMDL proteins are orthologues of the yeast ORM1/2 proteins, which regulate ceramide synthesis in yeast. ORMDL proteins inhibit serine palmitoyltransferase (SPT), the enzyme regulating a rate-limiting step of the sphingolipid pathway to control the levels of ceramides and other sphingolipids. Sphingomyelinase phosphodiesterase like 3b (SMPDL3b) is a glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchored protein in the plasma membrane (PM) and determines membrane fluidity in macrophages. We previously showed that differential expression of SMPDL3b alters the availability of Ceramide-1-phosphate (C1P) in human podocytes, which are terminally differentiated cells of the kidney filtration barrier. This observation lead us to investigate if SMPDL3b controls C1P availability in human podocytes by interfering with ceramide kinase (CERK) expression and function. We found that SMPDL3b interacts with CERK and can bind to C1P in vitro. Furthermore, CERK expression is reduced when SMPDL3b expression is silenced. These observations led us to propose that one of the mechanisms by which SMPDL3b influences the amount of C1P available in the podocytes is by interfering with the function of CERK thereby maintaining a balance in the levels of the C1P in podocytes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bbalip.2019.158517DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6832884PMC
December 2019

ATP-binding cassette A1 deficiency causes cardiolipin-driven mitochondrial dysfunction in podocytes.

J Clin Invest 2019 07 22;129(8):3387-3400. Epub 2019 Jul 22.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension/ Drug Discovery Center, Department of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida, USA.

Fibroblasts from patients with Tangier disease carrying ATP-binding cassette A1 (ABCA1) loss-of-function mutations are characterized by cardiolipin accumulation, a mitochondrial-specific phospholipid. Suppression of ABCA1 expression occurs in glomeruli from patients with diabetic kidney disease (DKD) and in human podocytes exposed to DKD sera collected prior to the development of DKD. We demonstrated that siRNA ABCA1 knockdown in podocytes led to reduced oxygen consumption capabilities associated with alterations in the oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) complexes and with cardiolipin accumulation. Podocyte-specific deletion of Abca1 (Abca1fl/fl) rendered mice susceptible to DKD, and pharmacological induction of ABCA1 improved established DKD. This was not mediated by free cholesterol, as genetic deletion of sterol-o-acyltransferase-1 (SOAT1) in Abca1fl/fl mice was sufficient to cause free cholesterol accumulation but did not cause glomerular injury. Instead, cardiolipin mediates ABCA1-dependent susceptibility to podocyte injury, as inhibition of cardiolipin peroxidation with elamipretide improved DKD in vivo and prevented ABCA1-dependent podocyte injury in vitro and in vivo. Collectively, we describe a pathway definitively linking ABCA1 deficiency to cardiolipin-driven mitochondrial dysfunction. We demonstrated that this pathway is relevant to DKD and that ABCA1 inducers or inhibitors of cardiolipin peroxidation may each represent therapeutic strategies for the treatment of established DKD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1172/JCI125316DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6668702PMC
July 2019

Safety and efficacy of antihyperglycaemic agents in diabetic kidney disease.

Endocrinol Diabetes Metab 2019 Jul 17;2(3):e00072. Epub 2019 May 17.

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension University of Miami Miami Florida.

Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) is the major contributor to the mortality and the financial burden of diabetes, accounting for approximately 50% of the cases of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in the developed world. Several studies have already demonstrated that achieving blood pressure targets in DKD with agents blocking the renin-angiotensin system confer superior renoprotection when compared to other agents. However, the effects on renal outcomes of antihyperglycaemic agents in these patients have not been reported or studied broadly until recent years. The intent of this article is to review the available data on safety, efficacy, impact on renal outcomes and pathophysiology implications of the most utilized antihyperglycaemic agents in DKD/ESRD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/edm2.72DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6613230PMC
July 2019

Histological Evidence of Diabetic Kidney Disease Precede Clinical Diagnosis.

Am J Nephrol 2019 5;50(1):29-36. Epub 2019 Jun 5.

Department of Experimental, Diagnostic and Specialty Medicine, Nephrology, Dialysis and Renal Transplant Unit, S. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, University of Bologna, Bologna, Italy,

Background: In the absence of a histological diagnosis, persistent albuminuria is globally accepted as the main diagnostic criteria for diabetic kidney disease (DKD).

Methods: In the present retrospective study, we evaluated data from an Italian cohort of 42 deceased diabetic donors (mainly with type 2 diabetes). Using the kidney biopsies obtained at the time of donation to evaluate single or double allocation based on Karpinski score, we determined the prevalence of histological lesions attributable to diabetes.

Results: All 42 donors presented with proteinuria in the normal range and an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) (chronic kidney disease [CKD]-EPI) >60 mL/min/1.73 m2. A kidney biopsy was available for 36 patients; of these, one was not interpretable and 32 showed histopathological lesions consistent with DKD and encompassing all histological classes. Thus, we found a relatively high proportion of histologically proven DKD that had been clinically undiagnosed, as none of the patient had significant proteinuria and eGFR <60 mL/min/1.73 m2.

Conclusions: The data we present here support the need to implement routine kidney biopsies in normoalbuminuric diabetic subjects in the early stages of CKD. Such strategy may help to improve risk stratification in diabetic patients and guide therapeutic decisions during the early stages of the disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1159/000500353DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6691362PMC
August 2020

Detection and Quantification of Lipid Droplets in Differentiated Human Podocytes.

Methods Mol Biol 2019 ;1996:199-206

Katz Family Division of Nephrology and Hypertension, Department of Medicine, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL, USA.

Lipid droplets (LDs) are dynamic organelles that regulate the storage and homeostasis of intracellular triglycerides and other neutral lipids. Studies show that the number, morphology, and subcellular localization of LDs are altered in a growing number of diseases. As such, methodologies for imaging and quantifying LDs have become essential tools for detecting changes in cellular lipid metabolism, which could be an important indicator of disease onset or progression. We previously reported on the accumulation of LDs in podocytes of the kidney glomerulus in nephrological diseases of metabolic and non-metabolic origin. Here, we describe a high-content analysis (HCA) method for automated detection and quantification of LDs in differentiated human podocytes.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-9488-5_17DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7941729PMC
April 2020

APOL1 renal risk variants promote cholesterol accumulation in tissues and cultured macrophages from APOL1 transgenic mice.

PLoS One 2019 18;14(4):e0211559. Epub 2019 Apr 18.

Kidney Disease Section, NIDDK, NIH, Bethesda, Maryland, United States of America.

Apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) genetic variants G1 and G2, compared to the common allele G0, are major risk factors for non-diabetic kidney disease in African descent populations. APOL1 is a minor protein component of HDL, as well as being expressed in podocytes and vascular cells. Reverse cholesterol transport involves the transport of cholesterol to HDL by cellular ATP-binding cassette; ABCA1 and ABCG1 with subsequent delivery from peripheral tissues to the liver. With impaired reverse cholesterol transport, lipid accumulation occurs and macrophages morphologically transform into foam cells, releasing inflammatory factors. We asked whether the APOL1 risk variants alter peripheral cholesterol metabolism and specifically affect macrophage cholesterol efflux. Tissues and bone marrow (BM)-derived monocytes were isolated from wild-type mice (WT) and from BAC/APOL1 transgenic (APOL1-G0, APOL1-G1, and APOL1-G2) mice, which carry a bacterial artificial chromosome that contains the human APOL1 genomic region. Monocytes were differentiated into macrophages using M-CSF, and then polarized into M1 and M2 macrophages. Cholesterol content, cholesterol efflux, and ABCA1 and ABCG1 mRNA expression were measured. Kidney, spleen, and bone marrow-derived macrophages from APOL1-G1 and -G2 mice showed increased cholesterol accumulation and decreased ABCA1 and ABCG1 mRNA levels. BM-derived macrophages from APOL1-G1 and -G2 mice showed significantly reduced cholesterol efflux compared to WT or APOL1-G0 macrophages. Taken together, the evidence suggests that APOL1-G1 and -G2 risk variants impaired reverse cholesterol transport through decreased expression of cholesterol efflux transporters suggesting a possible mechanism to promote macrophage foam cell formation, driving inflammation in the glomerulus and renal interstitium.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0211559PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6472726PMC
December 2019

Health-related quality of life in glomerular disease.

Kidney Int 2019 05 27;95(5):1209-1224. Epub 2019 Feb 27.

Department of Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.

There is scant literature describing the effect of glomerular disease on health-related quality of life (HRQOL). The Cure Glomerulonephropathy study (CureGN) is an international longitudinal cohort study of children and adults with four primary glomerular diseases (minimal change disease, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, membranous nephropathy, and IgA nephropathy). HRQOL is systematically assessed using items from the Patient-Reported Outcomes Measurement Informative System (PROMIS). We assessed the relationship between HRQOL and demographic and clinical variables in 478 children and 1115 adults at the time of enrollment into CureGN. Domains measured by PROMIS items included global assessments of health, mobility, anxiety, fatigue, and sleep impairment, as well as a derived composite measure incorporating all measured domains. Multivariable models were created that explained 7 to 32% of variance in HRQOL. Patient-reported edema consistently had the strongest and most robust association with each measured domain of HRQOL in multivariable analysis (adjusted β [95% CI] for composite PROMIS score in children, -5.2 [-7.1 to -3.4]; for composite PROMIS score in adults, -6.1 [-7.4 to -4.9]). Female sex, weight (particularly obesity), and estimated glomerular filtration rate were also associated with some, but not all, domains of HRQOL. Primary diagnosis, disease duration, and exposure to immunosuppression were not associated with HRQOL after adjustment. Sensitivity analyses and interaction testing demonstrated no significant association between disease duration or immunosuppression and any measured domain of HRQOL. Thus, patient-reported edema has a consistent negative association with HRQOL in patients with primary glomerular diseases, with substantially greater impact than other demographic and clinical variables.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.kint.2018.12.018DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6743723PMC
May 2019