Organoids derived from human pluripotent stem cells are a potentially powerful tool for high-throughput screening (HTS), but the complexity of organoid cultures poses a significant challenge for miniaturization and automation. Here, we present a fully automated, HTS-compatible platform for enhanced differentiation and phenotyping of human kidney organoids. The entire 21-day protocol, from plating to differentiation to analysis, can be performed automatically by liquid-handling robots, or alternatively by manual pipetting. High-content imaging analysis reveals both dose-dependent and threshold effects during organoid differentiation. Immunofluorescence and single-cell RNA sequencing identify previously undetected parietal, interstitial, and partially differentiated compartments within organoids and define conditions that greatly expand the vascular endothelium. Chemical modulation of toxicity and disease phenotypes can be quantified for safety and efficacy prediction. Screening in gene-edited organoids in this system reveals an unexpected role for myosin in polycystic kidney disease. Organoids in HTS formats thus establish an attractive platform for multidimensional phenotypic screening.
There remains a need for robust mouse models of diabetic nephropathy (DN) that mimic key features of advanced human DN. The recently developed mouse strain BTBR with the ob/ob leptin-deficiency mutation develops severe type 2 diabetes, hypercholesterolemia, elevated triglycerides, and insulin resistance, but the renal phenotype has not been characterized. Here, we show that these obese, diabetic mice rapidly develop morphologic renal lesions characteristic of both early and advanced human DN. BTBR ob/ob mice developed progressive proteinuria beginning at 4 weeks. Glomerular hypertrophy and accumulation of mesangial matrix, characteristic of early DN, were present by 8 weeks, and glomerular lesions similar to those of advanced human DN were present by 20 weeks. By 22 weeks, we observed an approximately 20% increase in basement membrane thickness and a Ͼ50% increase in mesangial matrix. Diffuse mesangial sclerosis (focally approaching nodular glomerulosclerosis), focal arteriolar hyalinosis, mesangiolysis, and focal mild interstitial fibrosis were present. Loss of podocytes was present early and persisted. In summary, BTBR ob/ob mice develop a constellation of abnormalities that closely resemble advanced human DN more rapidly than most other murine models, making this strain particularly attractive for testing therapeutic interventions. Diabetic nephropathy (DN) is the largest single cause of ESRD in the United States, accounting for nearly half of the patients who enter the dialysis patient population each year and currently accounting for 45% of prevalent kidney failure in the United States. 1-4 Although both type 1 and type 2 diabetes lead to DN, the current epidemic of DN is due to type 2 diabetes; however, understanding the mechanisms that produce the constellation of clinical and pathologic alterations that define DN in humans remains very incomplete, in part because clinical DN is a slowly progressive disease, and relevant animal models that produce this constellation of pathologic and clinical abnormalities have important limitations. Mice rendered hyperglycemic by administration of streptozotocin (STZ) or through genetic predisposition such as the db/db mouse can develop some features of DN, most notably glomerular mesangial expansion, but do so only over prolonged periods and do not progress to ESRD.  Most murine models to date have failed to develop reliably marked mesangial expansion or the
Human genetic and in vivo animal studies have helped to define the critical importance of podocytes for kidney function in health and disease. However, as in any other research area, by default these approaches do not allow for mechanistic studies. Such mechanistic studies require the availability of cells grown ex vivo (i.e., in culture) with the ability to directly study mechanistic events and control the environment such that specific hypotheses can be tested. A seminal breakthrough came about a decade ago with the documentation of differentiation in culture of primary rat and human podocytes and the subsequent development of conditionally immortalized differentiated podocyte cell lines that allow deciphering the decisive steps of differentiation and function of 'in vivo' podocytes. Although this paper is not intended to provide a comprehensive review of podocyte biology, nor their role in proteinuric renal diseases or progressive glomerulosclerosis, it will focus specifically on several aspects of podocytes in culture. In particular, we will discuss the scientific and research rationale and need for cultured podocytes, how podocyte cell-culture evolved, and how cultured podocytes are currently being used to uncover novel functions of podocytes that can then be validated in vivo in animal or human studies. In addition, we provide a detailed description of how to properly culture and characterize podocytes to avoid potential pitfalls.
Mechanical strain leads to up-regulation of the AT1R and increased angiotensin II production in conditionally immortalized podocytes. The resulting activation of a local tissue angiotensin system leads to an increase in podocyte apoptosis, mainly in an AT1R-mediated fashion.
Pippin JW, Brinkkoetter PT, Cormack-Aboud FC, Durvasula RV, Hauser PV, Kowalewska J, Krofft RD, Logar CM, Marshall CB, Ohse T, Shankland SJ. Inducible rodent models of acquired podocyte diseases. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol 296: F213-F229, 2009. First published September 10, 2008 doi:10.1152/ajprenal.90421.2008.-Glomerular diseases remain the leading cause of chronic and end-stage kidney disease. Significant advances in our understanding of human glomerular diseases have been enabled by the development and better characterization of animal models. Diseases of the glomerular epithelial cells (podocytes) account for the majority of proteinuric diseases. Rodents have been extensively used experimentally to better define mechanisms of disease induction and progression, as well as to identify potential targets and therapies. The development of podocyte-specific genetically modified mice has energized the research field to better understand which animal models are appropriate to study acquired podocyte diseases. In this review we discuss inducible experimental models of acquired nondiabetic podocyte diseases in rodents, namely, passive Heymann nephritis, puromycin aminonucleoside nephrosis, adriamycin nephrosis, liopolysaccharide, crescentic glomerulonephritis, and protein overload nephropathy models. Details are given on the model backgrounds, how to induce each model, the interpretations of the data, and the benefits and shortcomings of each. Genetic rodent models of podocyte injury are excluded.glomerulus; animal models HISTOLOGICAL ANALYSIS is a cornerstone for studying mechanisms of glomerular disease. However, analysis in human disease is limited by a relative paucity of tissue availability. Renal biopsies are only pursued if a presumptive diagnosis cannot be established on clinical grounds. Tissue sampling is typically restricted to the time of disease presentation and is rarely performed in follow-up, providing a mere snapshot of disease course.Animal models have significantly advanced our understanding of the pathogenesis of glomerular disease by overcoming these hurdles. Serial assessment of renal tissue in experimental models affords the opportunity to study development and progression of disease over time. Furthermore, the host response to injury may be deliberately modified, for example, through pharmacological intervention, selective disruption (knockout strategies), or overexpression (transgenic strategies) of a particular gene, allowing for mechanistic evaluations. A variety of animal species have been employed in the study of glomerular disease, but rodent models are preferred due to lower cost, maintenance requirements, and short gestational periods. Although both rats and mice are utilized, there are some important advantages and disadvantages for each (Table 1). The development of transgenic technology has proven an invaluable tool in elucidating the function of individual genes in health and disease. However, they cannot replace experimental models in furthering our understanding of the mechanisms...
Injury to podocytes and their slit diaphragms typically leads to marked proteinuria. Mutations in the TRPC6 gene that codes for a slit diaphragm-associated, cation-permeable ion channel have been shown recently to co-segregate with hereditary forms of progressive kidney failure. Herein is shown that induced expression of wild-type TRPC6 is a common feature of human proteinuric kidney diseases, with highest induction observed in membranous nephropathy. Cultured podocytes that are exposed to complement upregulate TRPC6 protein. Stimulation of receptor-operated channels in puromycin aminonucleoside-treated podocytes leads to increased calcium influx in a time-and dosage-dependent manner. Mechanistically, it is shown that TRPC6 is functionally connected to the podocyte actin cytoskeleton, which is rearranged upon overexpression of TRPC6. Transient in vivo gene delivery of TRPC6 into mice leads to expression of TRPC6 protein at the slit diaphragm and causes proteinuria. These studies suggest the involvement of TRPC6 in the pathology of nongenetic forms of proteinuric disease.
Toll-like receptors (TLR) classically recognize pathogen-associated danger signals but are also activated via endogenous ligands. For evaluation of their role in inflammatory kidney disease, the function of TLR was analyzed in two mouse models of cryoglobulinemic membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN; mice transgenic for thymic stromal lymphopoietin [TSLP], with or without deletion of the Fc␥ receptor IIb). Expression of TLR1 through 9 and TLR11 mRNA was detectable in whole kidneys and in isolated glomeruli of wild-type mice, with TLR3 and TLR4 having the highest absolute levels of expression. TLR1, 2, and 4 were increased in TSLP transgenic mice and even higher in TSLP transgenic Fc␥RIIb-deficient mice. TLR5 through 9 and 11 were upregulated to similar degrees in TSLP transgenic and TSLP transgenic Fc␥RIIb-deficient mice. Immunohistochemical studies of nephritic glomeruli localized TLR4 protein to podocytes. Cultured podocytes also expressed TLR4, and stimulation with TLR4-specific ligands resulted in a marked induction of chemokines; this was reduced by specific knockdown of TLR4 with siRNA. Fibrinogen, a potential endogenous TLR4 ligand, was shown to induce a similar profile of chemokines. In conclusion, it was demonstrated that TLR4 is constitutively expressed by podocytes and is upregulated in MPGN, where it may mediate glomerular injury by modulating expression of chemokines; therefore, TLR4 may link podocytes with the innate immune system to mediate MPGN triggered by the deposition of immune complexes.
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