Podocyte developmental defects caused by adriamycin in zebrafish embryos and larvae: A novel model of glomerular damage

Cristina Zennaro, Massimo Mariotti, Michele Carraro, Sara Pasqualetti, Alessandro Corbelli, Silvia Armelloni, Min Li, Masami Ikehata, Milan Clai, Mary Artero, Piergiorgio Messa, Giuliano Boscutti, Maria Pia Rastaldi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The zebrafish pronephros is gaining popularity in the nephrology community, because embryos are easy to cultivate in multiwell plates, allowing large number of experiments to be conducted in an in vivo model. In a few days, glomeruli reach complete development, with a structure that is similar to that of the mammalian counterpart, showing a fenestrated endothelium and a basement membrane covered by the multiple ramifications of mature podocytes. As a further advantage, zebrafish embryos are permeable to low molecular compounds, and this explains their extensive use in drug efficacy and toxicity experiments. Here we show that low concentrations of adriamycin (i.e. 10 and 20 μM), when dissolved in the medium of zebrafish embryos at 9 hours post-fertilization and removed after 48 hours (57 hpf), alter the development of podocytes with subsequent functional impairment, demonstrated by onset of pericardial edema and reduction of expression of the podocyte proteins nephrin and wt1. Podocyte damage is morphologically confirmed by electron microscopy and functionally supported by increased clearance of microinjected 70 kDa fluorescent dextran. Importantly, besides pericardial edema and glomerular damage, which persist and worsen after adriamycin removal from the medium, larvae exposed to adriamycin 10 and 20 μM do not show any myocardiocyte alterations nor vascular changes. The only extra-renal effect is a transient delay of cartilage formation that rapidly recovers once adriamycin is removed. In summary, this low dose adriamycin model can be applied to analyze podocyte developmental defects, such as those observed in congenital nephrotic syndrome, and can be taken in consideration for pharmacological studies of severe early podocyte injury.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere98131
JournalPLoS One
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 20 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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