Actin dynamics at focal adhesions: a common endpoint and putative therapeutic target for proteinuric kidney diseases

Sanja Sever, Mario Schiffer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Proteinuria encompasses diverse causes including both genetic diseases and acquired forms such as diabetic and hypertensive nephropathy. The basis of proteinuria is a disturbance in size selectivity of the glomerular filtration barrier, which largely depends on the podocyte: a terminally differentiated epithelial cell type covering the outer surface of the glomerulus. Compromised podocyte structure is one of the earliest signs of glomerular injury. The phenotype of diverse animal models and podocyte cell culture firmly established the essential role of the actin cytoskeleton in maintaining functional podocyte structure. Podocyte foot processes, actin-based membrane extensions, contain 2 molecularly distinct “hubs” that control actin dynamics: a slit diaphragm and focal adhesions. Although loss of foot processes encompasses disassembly of slit diaphragm multiprotein complexes, as long as cells are attached to the glomerular basement membrane, focal adhesions will be the sites in which stress due to filtration flow is counteracted by forces generated by the actin network in foot processes. Numerous studies within last 20 years have identified actin binding and regulatory proteins as well as integrins as essential components of signaling and actin dynamics at focal adhesions in podocytes, suggesting that some of them may become novel, druggable targets for proteinuric kidney diseases. Here we review evidence supporting the idea that current treatments for chronic kidney diseases beneficially and directly target the podocyte actin cytoskeleton associated with focal adhesions and suggest that therapeutic reagents that target the focal adhesion-regulated actin cytoskeleton in foot processes have potential to modernize treatments for chronic kidney diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1298-1307
Number of pages10
JournalKidney International
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Bis-T-23
  • actin
  • dynamin
  • podocytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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