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Concept: Alport syndrome

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Alport syndrome is a hereditary glomerulopathy with proteinuria and nephritis caused by defects in genes encoding type IV collagen in the glomerular basement membrane. All male and most female patients develop end-stage renal disease. Effective treatment to stop or decelerate the progression of proteinuria and nephritis is still under investigation. Here we showed that combination treatment of mild electrical stress (MES) and heat stress (HS) ameliorated progressive proteinuria and renal injury in mouse model of Alport syndrome. The expressions of kidney injury marker neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin and pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β were suppressed by MES+HS treatment. The anti-proteinuric effect of MES+HS treatment is mediated by podocytic activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-OH kinase (PI3K)-Akt and heat shock protein 72 (Hsp72)-dependent pathways in vitro and in vivo. The anti-inflammatory effect of MES+HS was mediated by glomerular activation of c-jun NH(2)-terminal kinase ½ (JNK1/2) and p38-dependent pathways ex vivo. Collectively, our studies show that combination treatment of MES and HS confers anti-proteinuric and anti-inflammatory effects on Alport mice likely through the activation of multiple signaling pathways including PI3K-Akt, Hsp72, JNK1/2, and p38 pathways, providing a novel candidate therapeutic strategy to decelerate the progression of patho-phenotypes in Alport syndrome.

Concepts: Kidney, Nephrology, Collagen, Glomerulus, In vivo, In vitro, Glomerulonephritis, Alport syndrome

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BACKGROUND: Pathologic studies played an important role in evaluating patients with Alport syndrome besides genotyping. Difficulties still exist in diagnosing Alport syndrome (AS), and misdiagnosis is a not-so-rare event, even in adult patient evaluated with renal biopsy. METHODS: We used nested case–control study to investigate 52 patients previously misdiagnosed and 52 patients initially diagnosed in the China Alport Syndrome Treatments and Outcomes Registry e-system. RESULTS: We found mesangial proliferative glomerulonephritis (MsPGN, 26.9%) and focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS, 19.2%) were the most common misdiagnosis. FSGS was the most frequent misdiagnosis in female X-linked AS (fXLAS) patients (34.8%), and MsPGN in male X-linked AS (mXLAS) patients (41.2%). Previous misdiagnosed mXLAS patients (13/17, 76.5%) and autosomal recessive AS (ARAS) patients (8/12, 66.7%) were corrected after a second renal biopsy. While misdiagnosed fXLAS patients (18/23, 78.3%) were corrected after a family member diagnosed (34.8%) or after rechecking electronic microscopy and/or collagen-IV alpha-chains immunofluresence study (COL-IF) (43.5%) during follow-up. With COL-IF as an additional criterion for AS diagnosis, we found that patients with less than 3 criteria reached have increased risk of misdiagnosis (3.29-fold for all misdiagnosed AS patients and 3.90-fold for fXLAS patients). CONCLUSION: We emphasize timely and careful study of electronic microscopy and COL-IF in pathologic evaluation of AS patients. With renal and/or skin COL-IF as additional criterion, 3 diagnosis criteria reached are the cutoff for diagnosing AS pathologically.

Concepts: Medical terms, Diagnosis, Pathology, Medical diagnosis, Glomerulonephritis, Sex linkage, Dominance, Alport syndrome

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Glomeruli are highly sophisticated filters and glomerular disease is the leading cause of kidney failure. Morphological change in glomerular podocytes and the underlying basement membrane are frequently observed in disease, irrespective of the underlying molecular etiology. Standard electron microscopy techniques have enabled the identification and classification of glomerular diseases based on two-dimensional information, however complex three-dimensional ultrastructural relationships between cells and their extracellular matrix cannot be easily resolved with this approach. We employed serial block face-scanning electron microscopy to investigate Alport syndrome, the commonest monogenic glomerular disease, and compared findings to other genetic mouse models of glomerular disease (Myo1e-/-, Ptpro-/-). These analyses revealed the evolution of basement membrane and cellular defects through the progression of glomerular injury. Specifically we identified sub-podocyte expansions of the basement membrane with both cellular and matrix gene defects and found a corresponding reduction in podocyte foot process number. Furthermore, we discovered novel podocyte protrusions invading into the glomerular basement membrane in disease and these occurred frequently in expanded regions of basement membrane. These findings provide new insights into mechanisms of glomerular barrier dysfunction and suggest that common cell-matrix-adhesion pathways are involved in the progression of disease regardless of the primary insult.

Concepts: Kidney, Extracellular matrix, Glomerulus, Bowman's capsule, Nephron, Kidney anatomy, Podocyte, Alport syndrome

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The proximate genetic cause of both Thin GBM and Alport Syndrome (AS) is abnormal α3, 4 and 5 collagen IV chains resulting in abnormal glomerular basement membrane (GBM) structure/function. We previously reported that podocyte detachment rate measured in urine is increased in AS, suggesting that podocyte depletion could play a role in causing progressive loss of kidney function. To test this hypothesis podometric parameters were measured in 26 kidney biopsies from 21 patients aged 2-17 years with a clinic-pathologic diagnosis including both classic Alport Syndrome with thin and thick GBM segments and lamellated lamina densa [n = 15] and Thin GBM cases [n = 6]. Protocol biopsies from deceased donor kidneys were used as age-matched controls. Podocyte depletion was present in AS biopsies prior to detectable histologic abnormalities. No abnormality was detected by light microscopy at <30% podocyte depletion, minor pathologic changes (mesangial expansion and adhesions to Bowman's capsule) were present at 30-50% podocyte depletion, and FSGS was progressively present above 50% podocyte depletion. eGFR did not change measurably until >70% podocyte depletion. Low level proteinuria was an early event at about 25% podocyte depletion and increased in proportion to podocyte depletion. These quantitative data parallel those from model systems where podocyte depletion is the causative event. This result supports a hypothesis that in AS podocyte adherence to the GBM is defective resulting in accelerated podocyte detachment causing progressive podocyte depletion leading to FSGS-like pathologic changes and eventual End Stage Kidney Disease. Early intervention to reduce podocyte depletion is projected to prolong kidney survival in AS.

Concepts: Kidney, Causality, Glomerulus, Bowman's capsule, Nephron, Nephrotic syndrome, Kidney anatomy, Alport syndrome

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Anti-glomerular basement membrane (anti-GBM) disease classically presents with aggressive necrotizing and crescentic glomerulonephritis, often with pulmonary hemorrhage. The pathologic hallmark is linear staining of GBMs for deposited immunoglobulin G (IgG), usually accompanied by serum autoantibodies to the collagen IV alpha-3 constituents of GBMs.

Concepts: Immune system, Fc receptor, Glomerulonephritis, Alport syndrome

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Alport syndrome is a hereditary glomerular disease that leads to kidney failure. It is caused by mutations affecting one of three chains of the collagen α3α4α5(IV) heterotrimer, which forms the major collagen IV network of the glomerular basement membrane (GBM). In the absence of the α3α4α5(IV) network, the α1α1α2(IV) network substitutes, but it is insufficient to maintain normal kidney function. Inhibition of angiotensin-converting enzyme slows progression to kidney failure in patients with Alport syndrome but is not a cure. Restoration of the normal collagen α3α4α5(IV) network in the GBM, by either cell- or gene-based therapy, is an attractive and logical approach toward a cure, but whether or not the abnormal GBM can be repaired once it has formed and is functioning is unknown. Using a mouse model of Alport syndrome and an inducible transgene system, we found that secretion of α3α4α5(IV) heterotrimers by podocytes into a preformed, abnormal, filtering Alport GBM is effective at restoring the missing collagen IV network, slowing kidney disease progression, and extending life span. This proof-of-principle study demonstrates the plasticity of the mature GBM and validates the pursuit of therapeutic approaches aimed at normalizing the GBM to prolong kidney function.

Concepts: Renal failure, Kidney, Nephrology, Collagen, Glomerulus, Basal lamina, Therapy, Alport syndrome

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Alport syndrome is an inherited renal disorder characterized by glomerular basement membrane lesions with hematuria, proteinuria and frequent hearing defects and ocular abnormalities. The disease is associated with mutations in genes encoding α3, α4, or α5 chains of type IV collagen, namely COL4A3 and COL4A4 in chromosome 2 and COL4A5 in chromosome X. In contrast to the well-known X-linked and autosomal recessive phenotypes, there is very little information about the autosomal dominant. In view of the wide spectrum of phenotypes, an exact diagnosis is sometimes difficult to achieve.

Concepts: Gene, Evolution, Collagen, Chromosome, Glomerulonephritis, Francis Crick, Sex linkage, Alport syndrome

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Alport syndrome is a rare hereditary disease that is associated with retinal abnormalities such as dot-and-fleck retinopathy and temporal macular thinning. The main pathophysiological process of Alport syndrome is loss of the collagen network in the basement membrane. However, the alterations in each retinal layer have not been fully evaluated. In the case presented here, we evaluated the retina of a patient with Alport syndrome using en face optical coherence tomography (OCT). The findings suggested that the primary alterations occur in the internal limiting membrane and the retinal pigment epithelium basement membrane which is a part of the Bruch’s membrane. The adjacent retinal layers are damaged subsequently. In conclusion, en face OCT could be useful in evaluating retinal abnormalities and understanding their underlying pathophysiology in Alport syndrome.

Concepts: Retina, Eye, Optical coherence tomography, Macular degeneration, Bruch's membrane, Drusen, Retinal pigment epithelium, Alport syndrome

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A seminal study recently demonstrated that bromide (Br-) has a critical function in the assembly of type IV collagen in basement membrane (BM), and suggested that Br- supplementation has therapeutic potential for BM diseases. Because salts of bromide (KBr and NaBr) have been used as antiepileptic drugs for several decades, repositioning of Br- for BM diseases is probable. However, the effects of Br- on glomerular basement membrane (GBM) disease such as Alport syndrome (AS) and its impact on the kidney are still unknown. In this study, we administered daily for 16 weeks 75 mg/kg or 250 mg/kg (within clinical dosage) NaBr or NaCl (control) via drinking water to 6-week-old AS mice (mouse model of X-linked AS). Treatment with 75 mg/kg NaBr had no effect on AS progression. Surprisingly, compared with 250 mg/kg NaCl, 250 mg/kg NaBr exacerbated the progressive proteinuria and increased the serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen in AS mice. Histological analysis revealed that glomerular injury, renal inflammation and fibrosis were exacerbated in mice treated with 250 mg/kg NaBr compared with NaCl. The expressions of renal injury markers (Lcn2, Lysozyme), matrix metalloproteinase (Mmp-12), pro-inflammatory cytokines (Il-6, Il-8, Tnf-α, Il-1β) and pro-fibrotic genes (Tgf-β, Col1a1, α-Sma) were also exacerbated by 250 mg/kg NaBr treatment. Notably, the exacerbating effects of Br- were not observed in wild-type mice. These findings suggest that Br- supplementation needs to be carefully evaluated for real positive health benefits and for the absence of adverse side effects especially in GBM diseases such as AS.

Concepts: Kidney, Gene, Collagen, Glomerulus, Renal physiology, Blood urea nitrogen, Potassium bromide, Alport syndrome

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In a case of 41-year-old man with mild nephropathy, Alport syndrome (AS) was diagnosed from the renal biopsy. However, the α5 chain of type IV collagen expressed in the glomerular basement membrane, which was the atypical staining pattern of AS. Genetic testing suggested autosomal recessive AS from heterozygous mutations at two positions in the type IV collagen α3 chain. These two gene mutations represented a new pattern of mutation and was suggested the association with an atypical α5 chain expression and mild phenotype.

Concepts: DNA, Gene, Genetics, Cancer, Mutation, Natural selection, Evolution, Alport syndrome