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Patients with albuminuria and CKD frequently have vascular dysfunction but the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Because the endothelial surface layer, a meshwork of surface-bound and loosely adherent glycosaminoglycans and proteoglycans, modulates vascular function, its loss could contribute to both renal and systemic vascular dysfunction in proteinuric CKD. Using Munich-Wistar-Fromter (MWF) rats as a model of spontaneous albuminuric CKD, multiphoton fluorescence imaging and single-vessel physiology measurements revealed that old MWF rats exhibited widespread loss of the endothelial surface layer in parallel with defects in microvascular permeability to both water and albumin, in both continuous mesenteric microvessels and fenestrated glomerular microvessels. In contrast to young MWF rats, enzymatic disruption of the endothelial surface layer in old MWF rats resulted in neither additional loss of the layer nor additional changes in permeability. Intravenous injection of wheat germ agglutinin lectin and its adsorption onto the endothelial surface layer significantly improved glomerular albumin permeability. Taken together, these results suggest that widespread loss of the endothelial surface layer links albuminuric kidney disease with systemic vascular dysfunction, providing a potential therapeutic target for proteinuric kidney disease.
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