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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2006 Aug;17(8):2164-75. Epub 2006 Jul 12.

Essential role of integrin-linked kinase in podocyte biology: Bridging the integrin and slit diaphragm signaling.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, PA 15261, USA.


Integrin-linked kinase (ILK) has been implicated in the pathogenesis of proteinuria and congenital nephrotic syndrome. However, the function of ILK in glomerular podocyte in a physiologic setting remains unknown. In this study, a mouse model was generated in which ILK gene was selectively disrupted in podocytes by using the Cre-LoxP system. Podocyte-specific ablation of ILK resulted in heavy albuminuria, glomerulosclerosis, and kidney failure, which led to animal death beginning at 10 wk of age. Podocyte detachment and apoptosis were not observed at 4 wk of age, when albuminuria became prominent, indicating that they are not the initial cause of proteinuria. Electron microscopy revealed an early foot process effacement, as well as morphologic abnormality, in ILK-deficient podocytes. ILK deficiency caused an aberrant distribution of nephrin and alpha-actinin-4 in podocytes, whereas the localization of podocin and synaptopodin remained relatively intact. Co-immunoprecipitation demonstrated that ILK physically interacted with nephrin to form a ternary complex, and alpha-actinin-4 participated in ILK/nephrin complex formation. Therefore, ILK plays an essential role in specifying nephrin and alpha-actinin-4 distribution and in maintaining the slit diaphragm integrity and podocyte architecture. These results also illustrate that the integrin and slit diaphragm signals in podocytes are intrinsically coupled through an ILK-dependent mechanism.

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