Journal Article

The podocyte as a direct target of immunosuppressive agents

Eva Schönenberger, Jochen H. Ehrich, Hermann Haller and Mario Schiffer

in Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation

Published on behalf of European Renal Association - European Dialysis and Transplant Assoc

Volume 26, issue 1, pages 18-24
Published in print January 2011 | ISSN: 0931-0509
Published online October 2010 | e-ISSN: 1460-2385 | DOI:
The podocyte as a direct target of immunosuppressive agents

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Podocytes play a key role in maintaining the blood–urine barrier for high-molecular-weight proteins. They are considered to be terminally differentiated, and podocyte loss cannot be compensated by regenerative proliferation. Various diseases leading to podocyte damage and loss result in proteinuria and cause nephrotic syndrome. Therefore, direct therapeutical strategies to protect podocytes in disease situations are a logical concept to prevent disease or to delay disease progression. Acquired podocytopathies like idiopathic focal segmental glomerulosclerosis and minimal change disease are historically considered as immunological diseases. Therefore, immunosuppressive agents such as steroids and calcineurin inhibitors are the commonly used treatment strategies. However, the causative disease mechanisms behind these treatment strategies remain elusive. Recent evidence shows that immunosuppressive agents, in addition to the effect on the immune system, directly influence the unique structure and function of podocytes. In this context, the actin cytoskeleton of the podocyte and cytokines such as vascular endothelial growth factor play a pivotal role. In this review, we summarize the direct effects on podocytes obtained in vivo and in vitro after treatment with calcineurin inhibitors, mTOR inhibitors and glucocorticoids. These direct effects could play a key role in the treatment concepts of podocytopathies with an important impact on the long-term renal function in patients with pharmacological immunosuppression.

Keywords: cyclosporin A; FSGS; glucocorticoids; proteinuria; rapamycin

Journal Article.  5360 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Nephrology

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