August 5, 2021

Gene expression in diabetic nephropathy

Vanderbilt researchers are looking to mRNA populations in podocytes — kidney cells that help filter blood — to help identify potential targets for treating diabetic kidney disease.

Injury of podocytes — specialized kidney cells that help filter the blood — is important in the development of diabetic nephropathy, or diabetic kidney disease. Differential gene expression in podocytes previously was found in type 1 diabetic nephropathy (T1DN) but had not been compared to type 2 diabetic nephropathy (T2DN). 

By sequencing and quantifying messenger RNA (mRNA) in diabetic mouse models, Yinqiu Wang, PhD, and colleagues identified important differences in podocyte mRNA translation between T1DN and T2DN.   

Reporting last month in the journal Diabetes, they found differential expression in over 125 genes in T2DN, and differences in the downregulation of pathways involving cell growth and energy usage between T1DN and T2DN. In both type 1 and type 2 diabetic podocytes, genes regulating apoptosis (programmed cell death) were overexpressed while genes regulating blood vessel formation and the kidney filtration barrier were repressed.  

These findings may help trace the origins of diabetic nephropathy and identify potential targets for treating diabetes-related podocyte injury.

The research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (grants DK051265, DK095785, DK062794, DK103067, DK114809), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, and Vanderbilt Center for Kidney Disease.