The ability of remaining glomerular podocytes to adapt to the loss of their neighbours decreases with age

James van der Wolde, Kotaro Haruhara, Victor G. Puelles, David Nikolic-Paterson, John F. Bertram, Luise A. Cullen-McEwen

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3 Citations (Scopus)


Progressive podocyte loss is a feature of healthy ageing. While previous studies have reported age-related changes in podocyte number, density and size and associations with proteinuria and glomerulosclerosis, few studies have examined how the response of remaining podocytes to podocyte depletion changes with age. Mild podocyte depletion was induced in PodCreiDTR mice aged 1, 6, 12 and 18 months via intraperitoneal administration of diphtheria toxin. Control mice received intraperitoneal vehicle. Podometrics, proteinuria and glomerular pathology were assessed, together with podocyte expression of p-rp-S6, a phosphorylation target that represents activity of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR). Podocyte number per glomerulus did not change in control mice in the 18-month time period examined. However, control mice at 18 months had the largest podocytes and the lowest podocyte density. Podocyte depletion at 1, 6 and 12 months resulted in mild albuminuria but no glomerulosclerosis, whereas similar levels of podocyte depletion at 18 months resulted in both albuminuria and glomerulosclerosis. Following podocyte depletion at 6 and 12 months, the number of p-rp-S6 positive podocytes increased significantly, and this was associated with an adaptive increase in podocyte volume. However, at 18 months of age, remaining podocytes were unable to further elevate mTOR expression or undergo hypertrophic adaptation in response to mild podocyte depletion, resulting in marked glomerular pathology. These findings demonstrate the importance of mTORC1-mediated podocyte hypertrophy in both physiological (ageing) and adaptive settings, highlighting a functional limit to podocyte hypertrophy reached under physiological conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)439–451
Number of pages13
JournalCell and Tissue Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2022


  • Ageing
  • Glomerulus
  • Kidney
  • mTOR
  • Podocyte

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