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Rebuilding the Glomerular Filtration Barrier by Regenerating Adult Podocytes

Key Personnel

Stuart J. Shankland (PI)
University of Washington

Ying Zheng (PI)
University of Washington

  • Ryan Nagao
    University of Washington
  • Jeffrey Pippin
    University of Washington

Project Description

Our project aims to rebuild kidney glomeruli by regenerating podocytes, terminally differentiated cells in the kidney glomerular filtering units that limit the passage of proteins from the blood into the urine, from two candidate resident stem/progenitor cells, cells of renin lineage (CoRL) and parietal epithelial cells (PECs). We will use an in vitro flow-directed microphysiological system (3D MPS) to determine to what degree CoRL and PECs are truly podocyte progenitors to rebuild a kidney, how their micro-environment regulates their fate, and what critical pathways are required for their reprogramming and fate to replace depleted adult podocytes.

Publications

  1. Dual lineage tracing shows that glomerular parietal epithelial cells can transdifferentiate toward the adult podocyte fate

    Kaverina, Natalya V.; Eng, Diana G.; Freedman, Benjamin S.; Kutz, J. Nathan; Chozinski, Tyler J.; Vaughan, Joshua C.; Miner, Jeffrey H.; Pippin, Jeffrey W.; Shankland, Stuart J. Kidney International. April 2019.

    Podocytes are differentiated post-mitotic cells that cannot replace themselves after injury. Glomerular parietal epithelial cells are proposed to be podocyte progenitors. To test whether a subset of parietal epithelial cells transdifferentiate to a podocyte fate, dual reporter PEC-rtTA\textbarLC1\textbartdTomato\textbarNphs1-FLPo\textbarFRT-EGFP mice, named PEC-PODO, were generated. Doxycycline administration permanently labeled parietal epithelial cells with tdTomato reporter (red), and upon doxycycline removal, the parietal epithelial cells (PECs) cannot label further. Despite the presence or absence of doxycycline, podocytes cannot label with tdTomato, but are constitutively labeled with an enhanced green fluorescent protein (EGFP) reporter (green). Only activation of the Nphs1-FLPo transgene by labeled parietal epithelial cells can generate a yellow color. At day 28 of experimental focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, podocyte density was 20% lower in 20% of glomeruli. At day 56 of experimental focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, podocyte density was 18% lower in 17% of glomeruli. TdTomato+ parietal epithelial cells were restricted to Bowman?s capsule in healthy mice. However, by days 28 and 56 of experimental disease, two-thirds of tdTomato+ parietal epithelial cells within glomerular tufts were yellow in color. These cells co-expressed the podocyte markers podocin, nephrin, p57 and VEGF164, but not markers of endothelial (ERG) or mesangial (Perlecan) cells. Expansion microscopy showed primary, secondary and minor processes in tdTomato+EGFP+ cells in glomerular tufts. Thus, our studies provide strong evidence that parietal epithelial cells serve as a source of new podocytes in adult mice.

  2. Reconstructing the Human Renal Vascular-Tubular Unit In Vitro.

    Rayner, Samuel G.; Phong, Kiet T.; Xue, Jun; Lih, Daniel; Shankland, Stuart J.; Kelly, Edward J.; Himmelfarb, Jonathan; Zheng, Ying. Adv Healthc Mater. 7(23):e1801120. December 2018.

    Engineered human kidney-on-a-chip platforms show tremendous promise for disease modeling and drug screening. Outstanding challenges exist, however, in reconstructing the complex architecture, cellular make-up, and matrix composition necessary for the proper modeling of kidney function. Herein, the first fully tunable human kidney-on-a-chip platform is reported that allows the reconstruction of the native architecture of the renal endothelial-epithelial exchange interface using entirely cell-remodelable matrix and patient-derived kidney cells. This platform consists of a double-layer human renal vascular-tubular unit (hRVTU) enabled by a thin collagen membrane that replicates the kidney exchange interface. It is shown that endothelial and epithelial cells lining their respective lumens remodel the membrane in culture into a approximately 1 microm thick exchange interface composed of native basement membrane proteins. This interface displays sufficient mechanical integrity for media flow and blood perfusion. As a proof of principle, it is demonstrated that the hRVTU performs kidney-specific functions including reabsorption of albumin and glucose from the epithelial channel. By incorporating multiple cell populations from single donors, it is demonstrated that the hRVTU may have utility for future precision medicine applications. The success of the system provides new opportunities for the next generation of organ-on-a-chip models.

  3. Cells of NG2 lineage increase in glomeruli of mice following podocyte depletion.

    Suzuki, Taihei; Eng, Diana G.; McClelland, Aaron D.; Pippin, Jeffrey W.; Shankland, Stuart J. Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 315(5):F1449–F1464. November 2018.

    Under certain circumstances, podocytes can be partially replaced following their loss in disease. The inability of podocytes to proliferate suggests that replacement derives from other cell types. Because neural/glial antigen 2 (NG2)-expressing cells can serve as progenitors in other organs and because herein we showed increased NG2 staining in podocytes following their loss in experimental focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, we used lineage tracing in

  4. Volumetric, Nanoscale Optical Imaging of Mouse and Human Kidney via Expansion Microscopy.

    Chozinski, Tyler J.; Mao, Chenyi; Halpern, Aaron R.; Pippin, Jeffrey W.; Shankland, Stuart J.; Alpers, Charles E.; Najafian, Behzad; Vaughan, Joshua C. Sci Rep. 8(1):10396. July 2018.

    Although light microscopy is a powerful tool for the assessment of kidney physiology and pathology, it has traditionally been unable to resolve structures separated by less than the ~250 nm diffraction limit of visible light. Here, we report on the optimization, validation, and application of a recently developed super-resolution fluorescence microscopy method, called expansion microscopy (ExM), for volumetric interrogation of mouse and human kidney tissue with 70-75 nm lateral and ~250 nm axial spatial resolution. Using ExM with a standard confocal microscope, we resolve fine details of structures that have traditionally required visualization by electron microscopy, including podocyte foot processes, the glomerular basement membrane, and the cytoskeleton. This inexpensive and accessible approach to volumetric, nanoscale imaging enables visualization of fine structural details of kidney tissues that were previously difficult or impossible to measure by conventional methodologies.

  5. Sex differences in transcriptomic profiles in aged kidney cells of renin lineage.

    Wang, Yuliang; Eng, Diana G.; Pippin, Jeffrey W.; Gharib, Sina A.; McClelland, Aaron; Gross, Kenneth W.; Shankland, Stuart J. Aging (Albany NY). 10(4):606–621. April 2018.

    Renin expressing cells in the kidney’s juxta-glomeruluar compartment likely also serve as progenitors for adult glomerular cells in disease. Although these cells of renin lineage (CoRL) decrease in number with advancing kidney age, accompanied by less responsiveness to typical stimuli such as ACE-inhibition, mechanisms and the impact of sex as a biological variable with age are not known. Accordingly, labeled CoRL were sorted from individual young (2m) and aged (27m) male and female Ren1cCre\textbarZsGreen reporter mice, and their transcriptomic profiles analyzed by RNA seq. When both aged female and male mice were combined, there were 48 differentially expressed genes (DEG) compared to young mice. However, when compared to their young sex-matched mice, aged female and male mice had 159 and 503 DEGs respectively. In addition to marked differences in individual genes between aged female and male mice, gene ontology analysis showed major pathway differences by sex. The majority of DEGs in one sex did not significantly change or changed in the opposite direction in the other sex. These results show that in CoRL of advanced age, individual genes and gene ontologies change, but differ between female and male mice, highlighting sex related differences the aging process.

  6. Detection of renin lineage cell transdifferentiation to podocytes in the kidney glomerulus with dual lineage tracing

    Eng, DG; Kaverina, NV; Schneider, RRS; Freedman, BS; Gross, KW; Miner, JH; Pippin, JW; Shankland, SJ. Kidney International. March 2018.

    Understanding of cellular transdifferentiation is limited by the technical inability to track multiple lineages in vivo. To overcome this we developed a new tool to simultaneously fate map two distinct cell types in the kidney, and genetically test whether cells of renin lineage (CoRL) can transdifferentiate to a podocyte fate. Ren1cCreER/ tdTomato/Nphs1-FLPo/FRT-EGFP mice (CoRL-PODO mice) were generated by crossing Ren1c-CreER/tdTomato CoRL reporter mice with Nphs1-FLPo/FRT-EGFP podocyte reporter mice. Following tamoxifen administration in these animals, CoRL were labeled with red fluorescence (tdTomato) and co-localized with renin. Podocytes were labeled green (enhanced green fluorescent protein) and co-localized with nephrin. Following podocyte loss by nephrotoxic antibody and subsequent enalapril-enhanced partial replacement, tdTomato-EGFP-labeled CoRL were detected as yellow- colored cells in a subset of glomerular tufts, without the use of antibodies. Co-localization with podocin indicated that these cells are podocytes, derived from CoRL origin. Thus, our novel study shows that two distinct cell types can be simultaneously labeled in the mouse kidney and provide strong genetic evidence in vivo that lost podocytes can be replaced in part by CoRL.

  7. Charting the transcriptional landscape of cells of renin lineage following podocyte depletion

    McClelland, AD; Lichtnekert, J; Eng, DG; Pippin, JW; Gross, KW; Gharib, SA; Shankland, SJ. PLOS ONE. 12(12). December 2017.

    Renin producing cells of the juxtaglomerulus, herein called cells of renin lineage (CoRL), have garnered recent interest for their propensity to act as a progenitor source for various kidney cell types including podocytes. Despite recent advances, the process of transdifferentiation of CoRL to podocytes is poorly understood. In this study, we employed a transgenic reporter mouse line which permanently labels CoRL with ZsGreen fluorescent protein, allowing for isolation by fluorescence-activated cell sorting. At 5 days following induction of abrupt podocyte ablation via anti-podocyte sheep IgG, mice were sacrificed and CoRL were isolated by FACS. RNA was subsequently analyzed by microarray. Gene set enrichment analysis (GSEA) was performed and revealed that CoRL display a distinct phenotype following podocyte ablation, primarily consisting of downregulation of metabolic processes and upregulation of immuno-modulatory processes. Additionally, RNA-biology and cell cycle-related processes were also upregulated. Changes in gene expression or activity of a core set of transcription factors including HNF1 and E2F were identified through changes in enrichment of their respective target genes. However, integration of results from transcription factor and canonical pathway analysis indicated that ERR1 and PU-box family members may be the major contributors to the post-podocyte ablation phenotype of CoRL. Finally, top ranking genes were selected from the microarray-based analysis and confirmed by qPCR. Collectively, our results provide valuable insights into the transcriptional regulation of CoRL following abrupt podocyte ablation.

  8. Gene-Edited Human Kidney Organoids Reveal Mechanisms of Disease in Podocyte Development

    Kim, YK; Refaeli, I; Brooks, CR; Jing, P; Gulieva, RE; Hughes, MR; Cruz, NM; Liu, Y; Churchill, AJ; Wang, Y; Fu, H; Pippin, JW; Lin, LY; Shankland, SJ; Vogl, AW; McNagny, KM; Freedman, BS. Stem Cells. 35(12):2366–2378. December 2017.

    A critical event during kidney organogenesis is the differentiation of podocytes, specialized epithelial cells that filter blood plasma to form urine. Podocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC-podocytes) have recently been generated in nephron-like kidney organoids, but the developmental stage of these cells and their capacity to reveal disease mechanisms remains unclear. Here, we show that hPSC-podocytes phenocopy mammalian podocytes at the capillary loop stage (CLS), recapitulating key features of ultrastructure, gene expression, and mutant phenotype. hPSC-podocytes in vitro progressively establish junction-rich basal membranes (nephrin+ podocin+ ZO-1+ ) and microvillus-rich apical membranes (podocalyxin+ ), similar to CLS podocytes in vivo. Ultrastructural, biophysical, and transcriptomic analysis of podocalyxin-knockout hPSCs and derived podocytes, generated using CRISPR/Cas9, reveals defects in the assembly of microvilli and lateral spaces between developing podocytes, resulting in failed junctional migration. These defects are phenocopied in CLS glomeruli of podocalyxin-deficient mice, which cannot produce urine, thereby demonstrating that podocalyxin has a conserved and essential role in mammalian podocyte maturation. Defining the maturity of hPSC-podocytes and their capacity to reveal and recapitulate pathophysiological mechanisms establishes a powerful framework for studying human kidney disease and regeneration. Stem Cells 2017;35:2366-2378

  9. WT1 Is Necessary for the Proliferation and Migration of Cells of Renin Lineage Following Kidney Podocyte Depletion.

    Kaverina, NV; Eng, DG; Largent, AD; Daehn, I; Chang, A; Gross, KW; Pippin, JW; Hohenstein, P; Shankland, SJ. Stem Cell Reports.. pii: S2213-6711(17):30377–6. September 2017.

    Wilms’ tumor suppressor 1 (WT1) plays an important role in cell proliferation and mesenchymal-epithelial balance in normal development and disease. Here, we show that following podocyte depletion in three experimental models, and in patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) and membranous nephropathy, WT1 increased significantly in cells of renin lineage (CoRL). In an animal model of FSGS in RenWt1fl/fl reporter mice with inducible deletion of WT1 in CoRL, CoRL proliferation and migration to the glomerulus was reduced, and glomerular disease was worse compared with wild-type mice. To become podocytes, CoRL undergo mesenchymal-to-epithelial transformation (MET), typified by reduced staining for mesenchymal markers (MYH11, SM22, αSMA) and de novo expression of epithelial markers (E-cadherin and cytokeratin18). Evidence for changes in MET markers was barely detected in RenWt1fl/fl mice. Our results show that following podocyte depletion, WT1 plays essential roles in CoRL proliferation and migration toward an adult podocyte fate.

  10. (Re)Building a Kidney.

    Oxburgh, L; Carroll, TJ; Cleaver, O; Gossett, DR; Hoshizaki, DK; Hubbell, JA; Humphreys, BD; Jain, S; Jensen, J; Kaplan, DL; Kesselman, C; Ketchum, CJ; Little, MH; McMahon, AP; Shankland, SJ; Spence, JR; Valerius, MT; Wertheim, JA; Wessely, O; Zheng, Y; Drummond, IA. J Am Soc Nephrol. 28(5):1370–1378. May 2017.

    (Re)Building a Kidney is a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases-led consortium to optimize approaches for the isolation, expansion, and differentiation of appropriate kidney cell types and the integration of these cells into complex structures that replicate human kidney function. The ultimate goals of the consortium are two-fold: to develop and implement strategies for in vitro engineering of replacement kidney tissue, and to devise strategies to stimulate regeneration of nephrons in situ to restore failing kidney function. Projects within the consortium will answer fundamental questions regarding human gene expression in the developing kidney, essential signaling crosstalk between distinct cell types of the developing kidney, how to derive the many cell types of the kidney through directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells, which bioengineering or scaffolding strategies have the most potential for kidney tissue formation, and basic parameters of the regenerative response to injury. As these projects progress, the consortium will incorporate systematic investigations in physiologic function of in vitro and in vivo differentiated kidney tissue, strategies for engraftment in experimental animals, and development of therapeutic approaches to activate innate reparative responses.

  1. Reconstructing the Human Renal Vascular-Tubular Unit In Vitro.

    Rayner, Samuel G.; Phong, Kiet T.; Xue, Jun; Lih, Daniel; Shankland, Stuart J.; Kelly, Edward J.; Himmelfarb, Jonathan; Zheng, Ying. Adv Healthc Mater. 7(23):e1801120. December 2018.

    Engineered human kidney-on-a-chip platforms show tremendous promise for disease modeling and drug screening. Outstanding challenges exist, however, in reconstructing the complex architecture, cellular make-up, and matrix composition necessary for the proper modeling of kidney function. Herein, the first fully tunable human kidney-on-a-chip platform is reported that allows the reconstruction of the native architecture of the renal endothelial-epithelial exchange interface using entirely cell-remodelable matrix and patient-derived kidney cells. This platform consists of a double-layer human renal vascular-tubular unit (hRVTU) enabled by a thin collagen membrane that replicates the kidney exchange interface. It is shown that endothelial and epithelial cells lining their respective lumens remodel the membrane in culture into a approximately 1 microm thick exchange interface composed of native basement membrane proteins. This interface displays sufficient mechanical integrity for media flow and blood perfusion. As a proof of principle, it is demonstrated that the hRVTU performs kidney-specific functions including reabsorption of albumin and glucose from the epithelial channel. By incorporating multiple cell populations from single donors, it is demonstrated that the hRVTU may have utility for future precision medicine applications. The success of the system provides new opportunities for the next generation of organ-on-a-chip models.

  2. Human Organ-specific Endothelial Cell Heterogeneity

    Marcu, R; Choi, YJ; Xue, J; Fortin, CL; Wang, Y; Nagao, RJ; Xu, J; MacDonald, JW; Bammler, TK; Murry, CE; Muczynski, K; Stevens, KR; Himmelfarb, J; Schwartz, SM; Zheng, Y. iScience. 4:20–35. June 2018.

    The endothelium first forms in the blood islands in the extra-embryonic yolk sac and then throughout the embryo to establish circulatory networks that further acquire organ-specific properties during development to support diverse organ functions. Here, we investigated the properties of endothelial cells (ECs), isolated from four human major organs—the heart, lung, liver, and kidneys—in individual fetal tissues at three months’ gestation, at gene expression, and at cellular function levels. We showed that organ-specific ECs have distinct expression patterns of gene clusters, which support their specific organ development and functions. These ECs displayed distinct barrier properties, angiogenic potential, and metabolic rate and support specific organ functions. Our findings showed the link between human EC heterogeneity and organ development and can be exploited therapeutically to contribute in organ regeneration, disease modeling, as well as guiding differentiation of tissue-specific ECs from human pluripotent stem cells.

  3. Tissue engineering toward organ-specific regeneration and disease modeling

    Mandrycky, C; Phong, K; Zheng, Y. MRS Communications. 7(3):332–347. September 2017.

    Tissue engineering has been recognized as a translational approach to replace damaged tissue or whole organs. Engineering tissue, however, faces an outstanding knowledge gap in the challenge to fully recapitulate complex organ-specific features. Major components, such as cells, matrix, and architecture, must each be carefully controlled to engineer tissue-specific structure and function that mimics what is found in vivo. Here we review different methods to engineer tissue, and discuss critical challenges in recapitulating the unique features and functional units in four major organs-the kidney, liver, heart, and lung, which are also the top four candidates for organ transplantation in the USA. We highlight advances in tissue engineering approaches to enable the regeneration of complex tissue and organ substitutes, and provide tissue-specific models for drug testing and disease modeling. We discuss the current challenges and future perspectives toward engineering human tissue models.

  4. (Re)Building a Kidney.

    Oxburgh, L; Carroll, TJ; Cleaver, O; Gossett, DR; Hoshizaki, DK; Hubbell, JA; Humphreys, BD; Jain, S; Jensen, J; Kaplan, DL; Kesselman, C; Ketchum, CJ; Little, MH; McMahon, AP; Shankland, SJ; Spence, JR; Valerius, MT; Wertheim, JA; Wessely, O; Zheng, Y; Drummond, IA. J Am Soc Nephrol. 28(5):1370–1378. May 2017.

    (Re)Building a Kidney is a National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases-led consortium to optimize approaches for the isolation, expansion, and differentiation of appropriate kidney cell types and the integration of these cells into complex structures that replicate human kidney function. The ultimate goals of the consortium are two-fold: to develop and implement strategies for in vitro engineering of replacement kidney tissue, and to devise strategies to stimulate regeneration of nephrons in situ to restore failing kidney function. Projects within the consortium will answer fundamental questions regarding human gene expression in the developing kidney, essential signaling crosstalk between distinct cell types of the developing kidney, how to derive the many cell types of the kidney through directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells, which bioengineering or scaffolding strategies have the most potential for kidney tissue formation, and basic parameters of the regenerative response to injury. As these projects progress, the consortium will incorporate systematic investigations in physiologic function of in vitro and in vivo differentiated kidney tissue, strategies for engraftment in experimental animals, and development of therapeutic approaches to activate innate reparative responses.