Identification of glomerular and podocyte-specific genes and pathways activated by sera of patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis

Lilian Otalora, Efren Chavez, Daniel Watford, Lissett Tueros, Mayrin Correa, Viji Nair, Philip Ruiz, Patricia Wahl, Sean Eddy, Sebastian Martini, Matthias Kretzler, George W. Burke, Alessia Fornoni, Sandra Merscher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) accounts for about 40% of all nephrotic syndrome cases in adults. The presence of several potential circulating factors has been suggested in patients with primary FSGS and particularly in patients with recurrent disease after transplant. Irrespectively of the nature of the circulating factors, this study was aimed at identifying early glomerular/podocyte-specific pathways that are activated by the sera of patients affected by FSGS. Kidney biopsies were obtained from patients undergoing kidney transplantation due to primary FSGS. Donor kidneys were biopsied pre-reperfusion (PreR) and a subset 1–2 hours after reperfusion of the kidney (PostR). Thirty-one post reperfusion (PostR) and 36 PreR biopsy samples were analyzed by microarray and gene enrichment KEGG pathway analysis. Data were compared to those obtained from patients with incident primary FSGS enrolled in other cohorts as well as with another cohort to correct for pathways activated by ischemia reperfusion. Using an ex-vivo cell-based assay in which human podocytes were cultured in the presence of sera from patients with recurrent and non recurrent FSGS, the molecular signature of podocytes exposed to sera from patients with REC was compared to the one established from patients with NON REC. We demonstrate that inflammatory pathways, including the TNF pathway, are primarily activated immediately after exposure to the sera of patients with primary FSGS, while phagocytotic pathways are activated when proteinuria becomes clinically evident. The TNF pathway activation by one or more circulating factors present in the sera of patients with FSGS supports prior experimental findings from our group demonstrating a causative role of local TNF in podocyte injury in FSGS. Correlation analysis with clinical and histological parameters of disease was performed and further supported a possible role for TNF pathway activation in FSGS. Additionally, we identified a unique set of genes that is specifically activated in podocytes when cultured in the presence of serum of patients with REC FSGS. This clinical translational study supports our prior experimental findings describing a potential role of the TNF pathway in the pathogenesis of FSGS. Validation of these findings in larger cohorts may lay the ground for the implementation of integrated system biology approaches to risk stratify patients affected by FSGS and to identify novel pathways relevant to podocyte injury.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0222948
JournalPloS one
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


Dive into the research topics of 'Identification of glomerular and podocyte-specific genes and pathways activated by sera of patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this