Early podocyte injury and elevated levels of urinary podocyte-derived extracellular vesicles in swine with metabolic syndrome: role of podocyte mitochondria

Li Hong Zhang, Xiang Yang Zhu, Alfonso Eirin, Arash Aghajani Nargesi, John R. Woollard, Adrian Santelli, In O. Sun, Stephen C Textor, Lilach O Lerman

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Metabolic syndrome (MetS) is associated with nutrient surplus and kidney hyperfiltration, accelerating chronic renal failure. The potential involvement of podocyte damage in early MetS remains unclear. Mitochondrial dysfunction is an important determinant of renal damage, but whether it contributes to MetS-related podocyte injury remains unknown. Domestic pigs were studied after 16 wk of diet-induced MetS, MetS treated with the mitochondria-targeted peptide elamipretide (ELAM; 0.1 mg·kg-1·day-1 sc) for the last month of diet, and lean controls (n = 6 pigs/group). Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) and renal blood flow (RBF) were measured using multidetector computed tomography, and podocyte and mitochondrial injury were measured by light and electron microscopy. Urinary levels of podocyte-derived extracellular vesicles (pEVs; nephrin positive/podocalyxin positive) were characterized by flow cytometry. Body weight, blood pressure, RBF, and GFR were elevated in MetS. Glomerular size and glomerular injury score were also elevated in MetS and decreased after ELAM treatment. Evidence of podocyte injury, impaired podocyte mitochondria, and foot process width were all increased in MetS but restored with ELAM. The urinary concentration of pEVs was elevated in MetS pigs and directly correlated with renal dysfunction, glomerular injury, and fibrosis and inversely correlated with glomerular nephrin expression. Additionally, pEV numbers were elevated in the urine of obese compared with lean human patients. Early MetS induces podocyte injury and mitochondrial damage, which can be blunted by mitoprotection. Urinary pEVs reflecting podocyte injury might represent early markers of MetS-related kidney disease and a novel therapeutic target.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F12-F22
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Renal physiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019



  • extracellular vesicles
  • metabolic syndrome
  • mitochondria
  • podocyte

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology

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