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      Molecular Analysis of NPHS2 and ACTN4 Genes in a Series of 33 Italian Patients Affected by Adult-Onset Nonfamilial Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis

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          Background: Mutations in the NPHS2 gene, encoding podocin, and in the ACTN4 gene, encoding α-actinin-4, have been identified in familial childhood-onset forms of focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). NPHS2 may be also responsible for some sporadic cases. The role of NPHS2 and ACTN4 in the adult sporadic form of the disease is being clarifying. Methods: Thirty-three adult subjects affected by sporadic FSGS were studied at molecular level. At biopsy, 12 patients had nephrotic syndrome, 5 patients had isolated proteinuria and 16 patients showed proteinuria and hematuria. Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was in the normal range in 19 subjects and 14 patients had a variable degree of renal failure. Multiplex families presenting with a clear familial inheritance for proteinuria or other congenital nephrotic syndrome were excluded. The whole coding region, all intron/exon boundaries and flanking intronic regions of NPHS2 gene and the exon 8, i.e. hot-spot mutations of the ACTN4 gene, were analyzed in all patients by denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) to search disease-causing defects. Results: The analysis identified four already described and two new polymorphisms, IVS3–21C>T and IVS3–46C>T, on the NPHS2 gene. Moreover, the R229Q allele was identified in 3/33 patients and in 7/124 controls, accounting for an allelic frequency of 0.045 and 0.028, respectively. The new intronic polymorphism IVS7–54C>T was also found in the exon 8 of the ACTN4 gene. Conclusions: In this study, we exhaustively analyzed the NPHS2 and the exon 8 of the ACTN4 genes in a series of sporadic ‘adult-onset’ FSGS patients. No causative mutations were found while the R229Q allele was identified in 3 patients confirming its possible role as a ‘disease-associated NPHS2 allele’ although its pathogenetic involvement needs to be further clarified. Moreover, the description of new intronic polymorphisms in both genes is reported.

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          NPHS2, encoding the glomerular protein podocin, is mutated in autosomal recessive steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome.

          Familial idiopathic nephrotic syndromes represent a heterogeneous group of kidney disorders, and include autosomal recessive steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome, which is characterized by early childhood onset of proteinuria, rapid progression to end-stage renal disease and focal segmental glomerulosclerosis. A causative gene for this disease, NPHS2, was mapped to 1q25-31 and we report here its identification by positional cloning. NPHS2 is almost exclusively expressed in the podocytes of fetal and mature kidney glomeruli, and encodes a new integral membrane protein, podocin, belonging to the stomatin protein family. We found ten different NPHS2 mutations, comprising nonsense, frameshift and missense mutations, to segregate with the disease, demonstrating a crucial role for podocin in the function of the glomerular filtration barrier.
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            Mutations in ACTN4, encoding alpha-actinin-4, cause familial focal segmental glomerulosclerosis.

            Focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) is a common, non-specific renal lesion. Although it is often secondary to other disorders, including HIV infection, obesity, hypertension and diabetes, FSGS also appears as an isolated, idiopathic condition. FSGS is characterized by increased urinary protein excretion and decreasing kidney function. Often, renal insufficiency in affected patients progresses to end-stage renal failure, a highly morbid state requiring either dialysis therapy or kidney transplantation. Here we present evidence implicating mutations in the gene encoding alpha-actinin-4 (ACTN4; ref. 2), an actin-filament crosslinking protein, as the cause of disease in three families with an autosomal dominant form of FSGS. In vitro, mutant alpha-actinin-4 binds filamentous actin (F-actin) more strongly than does wild-type alpha-actinin-4. Regulation of the actin cytoskeleton of glomerular podocytes may be altered in this group of patients. Our results have implications for understanding the role of the cytoskeleton in the pathophysiology of kidney disease and may lead to a better understanding of the genetic basis of susceptibility to kidney damage.
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              Patients with mutations in NPHS2 (podocin) do not respond to standard steroid treatment of nephrotic syndrome.

              Nephrotic syndrome (NS) represents the association of proteinuria, hypoalbuminemia, edema, and hyperlipidemia. Steroid-resistant NS (SRNS) is defined by primary resistance to standard steroid therapy. It remains one of the most intractable causes of ESRD in the first two decades of life. Mutations in the NPHS2 gene represent a frequent cause of SRNS, occurring in approximately 20 to 30% of sporadic cases of SRNS. On the basis of a very small number of patients, it was suspected that children with homozygous or compound heterozygous mutations in NPHS2 might exhibit primary steroid resistance and a decreased risk of FSGS recurrence after kidney transplantation. To test this hypothesis, NPHS2 mutational analysis was performed with direct sequencing for 190 patients with SRNS from 165 different families and, as a control sample, 124 patients with steroid-sensitive NS from 120 families. Homozygous or compound heterozygous mutations in NPHS2 were detected for 43 of 165 SRNS families (26%). Conversely, no homozygous or compound heterozygous mutations in NPHS2 were observed for the 120 steroid-sensitive NS families. Recurrence of FSGS in a renal transplant was noted for seven of 20 patients with SRNS (35%) without NPHS2 mutations, whereas it occurred for only two of 24 patients with SRNS (8%) with homozygous or compound heterozygous mutations in NPHS2. None of 29 patients with homozygous or compound heterozygous mutations in NPHS2 who were treated with cyclosporine A or cyclophosphamide demonstrated complete remission of NS. It was concluded that patients with SRNS with homozygous or compound heterozygous mutations in NPHS2 do not respond to standard steroid treatment and have a reduced risk for recurrence of FSGS in a renal transplant. Because these findings might affect the treatment plan for childhood SRNS, it might be advisable to perform mutational analysis of NPHS2, if the patient consents, in parallel with the start of the first course of standard steroid therapy.

                Author and article information

                Nephron Clin Pract
                Nephron Clinical Practice
                S. Karger AG
                February 2005
                30 December 2004
                : 99
                : 2
                : c31-c36
                Departments of aNephrology and Dialysis and bMedical Genetics Service, ‘Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza’ Hospital, IRCCS, San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy
                82864 Nephron Clin Pract 2005;99:c31–c36
                © 2005 S. Karger AG, Basel

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                Tables: 3, References: 24, Pages: 1
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