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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2011 Feb;300(2):F521-30. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00490.2009. Epub 2010 Oct 13.

Early glomerular alterations in genetically determined low nephron number.

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  • 1Department of Pediatrics, University of Erlangen-N├╝rnberg, Erlangen, Germany.


An association between low nephron number and subsequent development of hypertension in later life has been demonstrated. The underlying pathomechanisms are unknown, but glomerular and postglomerular changes have been discussed. We investigated whether such changes are already present in prehypertensive "glial cell line-derived neurotrophic growth factor" heterozygous mice (GDNF+/-) with lower nephron number. Twenty-six-week-old mice [22 GDNF+/-, 29 C57B6 wild-type control (wt)] were used for in vivo experiments with intra-arterial and tail cuff blood pressure measurements. After perfusion fixation, kidneys were investigated with morphological, morphometric, stereological, and immunohistochemical techniques and TaqMan PCR analysis. As expected at this age, blood pressure was comparable between GDNF+/- and wt. Nephron number per kidney was significantly lower in GDNF+/- than in wt (-32.8%, P < 0.005), and mean glomerular volume was significantly higher (+49.5%, P < 0.001). Renal damage scores, glomerular and tubular proliferation, analysis of intrarenal arteries and peritubular capillaries, expression of relevant tubular transporter proteins, as well as gene expression of profibrotic, proinflammatory, or prohypertensive markers were not significantly different between GDNF+/- and wt. Compensatory glomerular hypertrophy in GDNF+/- was accompanied by higher numbers of endothelial and mesangial cells as well as PCNA-positive glomerular cells, whereas podocyte density was significantly reduced. Further electron microscopic analysis showed marked thickening of glomerular basement membrane. In conclusion, lower nephron number is associated with marked early glomerular structural changes, in particular lower capillary supply, reduced podocyte density, and thickened glomerular basement membrane, that may predispose to glomerular sclerosis.

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