Podocyte biology and the emerging understanding of podocyte diseases.
The understanding of the unique molecular apparatus of the podocyte has increased dramatically in recent years. This new knowledge has improved the diagnosis and classification of the diseases that have been termed podocytopathies. Podocyte injury frequently leads to reorganization of the slit diaphragm and reorganization of the foot process structure. Four major causes of foot process effacement can be identified, with some due to genetic mutations and others due to acquired conditions: (1) impaired formation of the slit diaphragm complex; (2) abnormalities of the glomerular basement membrane or the adhesion of podocytes to the glomerular basement membrane; (3) abnormalities of the actin cytoskeleton and associated proteins, and (4) alterations in the apical membrane domain of the podocyte. The major podocytopathies can also be organized into four categories, including those with a normal glomerular histology, diffuse mesangial sclerosis, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, and collapsing glomerulopathy.
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