The transcription factor Twist1 regulates several processes that could impact kidney disease progression, including epithelial cell differentiation and inflammatory cytokine induction. Podocytes are specialized epithelia that exhibit features of immune cells and could therefore mediate unique effects of Twist1 on glomerular disease. To study Twist1 functions in podocytes during proteinuric kidney disease, we employed a conditional mutant mouse in which Twist1 was selectively ablated in podocytes (Twist1-PKO). Deletion of Twist1 in podocytes augmented proteinuria, podocyte injury, and foot process effacement in glomerular injury models. Twist1 in podocytes constrained renal accumulation of monocytes/macrophages and glomerular expression of CCL2 and the macrophage cytokine TNF-α after injury. Deletion of TNF-α selectively from podocytes had no impact on the progression of proteinuric nephropathy. By contrast, the inhibition of CCL2 abrogated the exaggeration in proteinuria and podocyte injury accruing from podocyte Twist1 deletion. Collectively, Twist1 in podocytes mitigated urine albumin excretion and podocyte injury in proteinuric kidney diseases by limiting CCL2 induction that drove monocyte/macrophage infiltration into injured glomeruli. Myeloid cells, rather than podocytes, further promoted podocyte injury and glomerular disease by secreting TNF-α. These data highlight the capacity of Twist1 in the podocyte to mitigate glomerular injury by curtailing the local myeloid immune response.


Jiafa Ren, Yuemei Xu, Xiaohan Lu, Liming Wang, Shintaro Ide, Gentzon Hall, Tomokazu Souma, Jamie R. Privratsky, Robert F. Spurney, Steven D. Crowley


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