Nephrotic syndrome is a disorder of the glomerular filtration barrier, and central to the filtration mechanism of the glomerular filtration barrier is the podocyte. We are starting to better understand how this cell, with its unique architectural features, fulfils its exact filtration properties. The multiprotein complex between adjacent podocyte foot processes, the slit diaphragm, is essential to the control of the actin cytoskeleton and cell morphology. Many of the proteins within the slit diaphragm, including nephrin, podocin, transient receptor potential-6 channel, and α-actinin-4, have been identified via genetic studies of inherited nephrotic syndromes. Signaling from slit diaphragm proteins to the actin cytoskeleton is mediated via the Rho GTPases. These are thought to be involved in the control of podocyte motility, which has been postulated as a focus of proteinuric pathways. Nephrotic syndrome is currently treated with immunosuppressive therapy, with significant adverse effects. These therapies may work in nephrotic syndrome due to specific effects on the podocytes. This review aims to describe our current understanding of the cellular pathways and molecules within the podocyte relevant to nephrotic syndrome and its treatment. With our current knowledge of the cellular biology of the podocyte, there is much hope for targeted therapies for nephrotic syndromes.
- Journal Article