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Concept: Alport syndrome


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


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


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


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


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


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


In multicellular organisms, proteins of the extracellular matrix (ECM) play structural and functional roles in essentially all organs, so understanding ECM protein organization in health and disease remains an important goal. Here, we used sub-diffraction resolution stochastic optical reconstruction microscopy (STORM) to resolve the in situ molecular organization of proteins within the kidney glomerular basement membrane (GBM), an essential mediator of glomerular ultrafiltration. Using multichannel STORM and STORM-electron microscopy correlation, we constructed a molecular reference frame that revealed a laminar organization of ECM proteins within the GBM. Separate analyses of domains near the N- and C-termini of agrin, laminin, and collagen IV in mouse and human GBM revealed a highly oriented macromolecular organization. Our analysis also revealed disruptions in this GBM architecture in a mouse model of Alport syndrome. These results provide the first nanoscopic glimpse into the organization of a complex ECM. DOI:

Concepts: Protein, Kidney, Gene, Cell, Collagen, Extracellular matrix, Basal lamina, Alport syndrome


Mutations in the genes COL4A3, COL4A4, and COL4A5 affect the synthesis, assembly, deposition, or function of the collagen IV α345 molecule, the major collagenous constituent of the mature mammalian glomerular basement membrane. These mutations are associated with a spectrum of nephropathy, from microscopic hematuria to progressive renal disease leading to ESRD, and with extrarenal manifestations such as sensorineural deafness and ocular anomalies. The existing nomenclature for these conditions is confusing and can delay institution of appropriate nephroprotective therapy. Herein we propose a new classification of genetic disorders of the collagen IV α345 molecule with the goal of improving renal outcomes through regular monitoring and early treatment.

Concepts: DNA, Genetics, Collagen, Glomerulus, Glomerulonephritis, Alport syndrome


Alport syndrome is due to mutations in one of the genes encoding (α3,4,5) type IV collagen resulting in defective type IV collagen, a key component of the glomerular basement membrane (GBM). The GBM is initially thin, and with ongoing remodeling, develops a thickened basket-woven appearance. We report a unique case of a 9-year-old boy who was biopsied for hematuria and proteinuria, diagnosed as IgA nephropathy, with normal GBM appearance and thickness. Due to a family history of hematuria and chronic kidney disease, he subsequently underwent genetic evaluation and a mutation of α3 type IV collagen (COL4A3) was detected. Additional studies of the initial biopsy demonstrated abnormal type IV collagen immunostaining. A repeat biopsy 4years later showed characteristic glomerular basement membrane morphology of Alport syndrome, and scarring consistent with sequelae of IgA nephropathy. This is the first description of this unusual transition from an initial normal appearance of the glomerular basement membrane to the classic Alport phenotype.

Concepts: Chronic kidney disease, Nephrology, Evolution, Collagen, Glomerulonephritis, Kidney diseases, IgA nephropathy, Alport syndrome


To assess pregnancy outcome in women with Alport syndrome and the impact of pregnancy on the disease progression.

Concepts: Evaluation methods, Alport syndrome