Understanding podocyte-specific responses to injury at a systems level is difficult because injury leads to podocyte loss or an increase of extracellular matrix, altering glomerular cellular composition. Finding a window into early podocyte injury might help identify molecular pathways involved in the podocyte stress response.
We developed an approach to apply proteome analysis to very small samples of purified podocyte fractions. To examine podocytes in early disease states in FSGS mouse models, we used podocyte fractions isolated from individual mice after chemical induction of glomerular disease (with Doxorubicin or LPS). We also applied single-glomerular proteome analysis to tissue from patients with FSGS.
Transcriptome and proteome analysis of glomeruli from patients with FSGS revealed an underrepresentation of podocyte-specific genes and proteins in late-stage disease. Proteome analysis of purified podocyte fractions from FSGS mouse models showed an early stress response that includes perturbations of metabolic, mechanical, and proteostasis proteins. Additional analysis revealed a high correlation between the amount of proteinuria and expression levels of the mechanosensor protein Filamin-B. Increased expression of Filamin-B in podocytes in biopsy samples from patients with FSGS, in single glomeruli from proteinuric rats, and in podocytes undergoing mechanical stress suggests that this protein has a role in detrimental stress responses. In Drosophila, nephrocytes with reduced filamin homolog Cher displayed altered filtration capacity, but exhibited no change in slit diaphragm structure.
We identified conserved mechanisms of the podocyte stress response through ultrasensitive proteome analysis of human glomerular FSGS tissue and purified native mouse podocytes during early disease stages. This approach enables systematic comparisons of large-scale proteomics data and phenotype-to-protein correlation.