Synaptopodin (Synpo) is an actin-associated protein in podocyte foot processes. By generating mice that completely lack Synpo, we previously showed that Synpo is dispensable for normal kidney function. However, lack of Synpo worsened adriamycin-induced nephropathy, indicating a protective role for Synpo in injured podocytes. Here, we investigated whether lack of Synpo directly impacts a genetic disease, Alport syndrome (AS), because Synpo is reduced in podocytes of affected humans and mice; whether this is merely an association or pathogenic is unknown. We used collagen type IV-a5 (Col4a5) mutant mice, which model X-linked AS, showing glomerular basement membrane (GBM) abnormalities, eventual foot process effacement, and progression to end-stage kidney disease. We intercrossed mice carrying mutations in Synpo and Col4a5 to produce double-mutant mice. Urine and tissue were taken at select time points to evaluate albuminuria, histopathology, and glomerular capillary wall composition and ultrastructure. Lack of Synpo in Col4a5/Y, Col4a5/, or Col4a5þ / Alport mice led to the acceleration of disease progression, including more severe proteinuria and glomerulosclerosis. Absence of Synpo attenuated the shift of myosin IIA from the podocyte cell body and major processes to actin cables near the GBM in the areas of effacement. We speculate that this is mechanistically associated with enhanced loss of podocytes due to easier detachment from the GBM. We conclude that Synpo deletion exacerbates the disease phenotype in Alport mice, revealing the podocyte actin cytoskeleton as a target for therapy in patients with AS. NEW & NOTEWORTHY Alport syndrome (AS) is a hereditary disease of the glomerular basement with hematuria and proteinuria. Podocytes eventually exhibit foot process effacement, indicating actin cytoskeletal changes. To investigate how cytoskeletal changes impact podocytes, we generated Alport mice lacking synaptopodin, an actin-binding protein in foot processes. Analysis showed a more rapid disease progression, demonstrating that synaptopodin is protective. This suggests that the actin cytoskeleton is a target for therapy in AS and perhaps other glomerular diseases.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)F12-F25
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Alport syndrome
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Cytoskeleton
  • Glomerular basement membrane
  • Podocyte


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