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PLoS One. 2016 Aug 1;11(8):e0160252. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0160252. eCollection 2016.

Knockdown of Expression of Cdk5 or p35 (a Cdk5 Activator) Results in Podocyte Apoptosis.

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Department of Nephrology, Ningxia People's Hospital (First Affiliated Hospital of Medical College, Northwest University for Nationalities), Yinchuan, Ningxia Province, 750002, China.
Center of Blood Purification, Central Hospital of Rizhao City, Rizhao, Shangdong Province, 276800, China.
Zhongshan-Xuhui hospital affiliated Fudan University, Shanghai, 200031, China.
Laboratory of Neurochemistry, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), Bethesda, MD, 20814, United States of America.


Podocytes are terminally differentiated glomerular epithelial cells. Podocyte loss has been found in many renal diseases. Cdk5 is a cyclin-dependent protein kinase which is predominantly regulated by p35. To study the role of Cdk5/p35 in podocyte survival, we first applied western blotting (WB) analysis to confirm the time-course expression of Cdk5 and p35 during kidney development and in cultured immortalized mouse podocytes. We also demonstrated that p35 plays an important role in promoting podocyte differentiation by overexpression of p35 in podocytes. To deregulate the expression of Cdk5 or p35 in mouse podocytes, we used RNAi and analyzed cell function and apoptosis assaying for podocyte specific marker Wilms Tumor 1 (WT1) and cleaved caspase 3, respectively. We also counted viable cells using cell counting kit-8. We found that depletion of Cdk5 causes decreased expression of WT1 and apoptosis. It is noteworthy, however, that downregulation of p35 reduced Cdk5 activity, but had no effect on cleaved caspase 3 expression. It did, however, reduce expression of WT1, a transcription factor, and produced podocyte dysmorphism. On the other hand increased apoptosis could be detected in p35-deregulated podocytes using the TUNEL analysis and immunofluorescent staining with cleaved caspase3 antibody. Viability of podocytes was decreased in both Cdk5 and p35 knockdown cells. Knocking down Cdk5 or p35 gene by RNAi does not affect the cycline I expression, another Cdk5 activator in podocyes. We conclude that Cdk5 and p35 play a crucial role in maintaining podocyte differentiation and survival, and suggest these proteins as targets for therapeutic intervention in podocyte-damaged kidney diseases.

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