The epithelial filtration slit is a crucial component of the glomerular capillary membrane, which is essential for maintaining glomerular filtration function. Though chronic kidney diseases are an immense clinical problem, the mechanisms through which structural alterations reduce glomerular water filtration have not yet been understood completely. To investigate the mechanisms underlying filtration function loss, we studied rats with spontaneously occurring progressive kidney disease, either treated with angiotensin II antagonist or untreated, combining high-resolution electron microscopy of the glomerular capillary wall with theoretical water filtration modeling. Under pathological conditions, epithelial filtration pores and the extension of the subpodocyte space were larger than in normal controls. Numerical analyses indicated that these ultrastructural changes increased hydraulic resistance of the glomerular capillary wall by extending coverage of the filtration barrier by the subpodocyte space, with the changes in hydrodynamic forces acting on podocytes likely being responsible for their detachment. Angiotensin II inhibition normalized the subpodocyte space’s hydraulic resistance, restored mechanical podocyte load, and preserved CD151–α3 integrin complex assembly, improving podocyte adherence and survival. Our results show that ultrastructural changes in podocytes are major determinants of the hydraulic resistance of the glomerular capillary wall and highlight the mechanism of podocyte loss in kidney disease progression, as well as the mechanisms underlying angiotensin II inhibition.
Andrea Remuzzi, Sara Conti, Bogdan Ene-Iordache, Susanna Tomasoni, Paola Rizzo, Ariela Benigni, Giuseppe Remuzzi