Maternal hypoxia developmentally programs low podocyte endowment in male, but not female offspring

Gessica D. Gonçalves, Sarah L. Walton, Sarah E. Gazzard, James van der Wolde, Paulo C.F. Mathias, Karen M. Moritz, Luise A. Cullen-McEwen, John F. Bertram

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10 Citations (Scopus)


Fetal hypoxia is a common complication of pregnancy. We have previously reported that maternal hypoxia in late gestation in mice gives rise to male offspring with reduced nephron number, while females have normal nephron number. Male offspring later develop proteinuria and renal pathology, including glomerular pathology, whereas female offspring are unaffected. Given the central role of podocyte depletion in glomerular and renal pathology, we examined whether maternal hypoxia resulted in low podocyte endowment in offspring. Pregnant CD1 mice were allocated at embryonic day 14.5 to normoxic (21% oxygen) or hypoxic (12% oxygen) conditions. At postnatal day 21, kidneys from mice were immersion fixed, and one mid-hilar slice per kidney was immunostained with antibodies directed against p57 and synaptopodin for podocyte identification. Slices were cleared and imaged with a multiphoton microscope for podometric analysis. Male hypoxic offspring had significantly lower birth weight, nephron number, and podocyte endowment than normoxic male offspring (podocyte number; normoxic 62.86 ± 2.26 podocytes per glomerulus, hypoxic 53.38 ± 2.25; p <.01, mean ± SEM). In contrast, hypoxic female offspring had low birth weight but their nephron and podocyte endowment was the same as normoxic female offspring (podocyte number; normoxic 62.38 ± 1.86 podocytes per glomerulus, hypoxic 61.81 ± 1.80; p =.88). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of developmentally programmed low podocyte endowment. Given the well-known association between podocyte depletion in adulthood and glomerular pathology, we postulate that podocyte endowment may place offspring at risk of renal disease in adulthood, and explain the greater vulnerability of male offspring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2668-2678
Number of pages11
JournalAnatomical Record
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2020


  • maternal hypoxia
  • offspring
  • podocyte endowment

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