Podocyte loss is the initial event in the development of glomerulosclerosis, the structural hallmark of progressive proteinuric nephropathies. Understanding mechanisms underlying glomerular injury is the key challenge for identifying novel therapeutic targets. In mice with protein-overload induced by bovine serum albumin (BSA), we evaluated whether the alternative pathway (AP) of complement mediated podocyte depletion and podocyte-dependent parietal epithelial cell (PEC) activation causing glomerulosclerosis. Factor H (Cfh '/') or factor B-deficient mice were studied in comparison with wild-Type (WT) littermates. WT+BSA mice showed podocyte depletion accompanied by glomerular complement C3 and C3a deposits, PEC migration to capillary tuft, proliferation, and glomerulosclerosis. These changes were more prominent in Cfh '/' +BSA mice. The pathogenic role of AP was documented by data that factor B deficiency preserved glomerular integrity. In protein-overload mice, PEC dysregulation was associated with upregulation of CXCR4 and GDNF/c-Ret axis. In vitro studies provided additional evidence of a direct action of C3a on proliferation and CXCR4-related migration of PECs. These effects were enhanced by podocyte-derived GDNF. In patients with proteinuric nephropathy, glomerular C3/C3a paralleled PEC activation, CXCR4 and GDNF upregulation. These results indicate that mechanistically uncontrolled AP complement activation is not dispensable for podocyte-dependent PEC activation resulting in glomerulosclerosis.
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