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Human Th17 cells produce a soluble mediator that increases podocyte motility via signaling pathways that mimic PAR-1 activation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)F913-F921
Number of pages9
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number4
Early online date25 Sep 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 19 Jul 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 25 Sep 2019
DatePublished (current) - 1 Oct 2019


The specific pathogenesis of idiopathic nephrotic syndrome (NS) is poorly understood, and the role of immune mediators remains contentious. However, there is good evidence for the role of a circulating factor, and we recently postulated circulating proteases as candidate factors. Immunosuppressive therapy with glucocorticoids (GCs) and T cell inhibitors are widely used in the clinical treatment of NS. Given that T helper (CD4+) cells expressing IL-17A (so-called Th17 cells) have recently been reported to be resistant to GC treatment, and GC resistance remains a major challenge in the management of NS, we hypothesized that Th17 cells produce a circulating factor that is capable of signaling to the podocyte and inducing deleterious phenotypic changes. To test this, we generated human Th17 cells from healthy volunteers and added the supernatants from these T cell cultures to conditionally immortalized human podocytes in vitro. This demonstrated that podocytes treated with Th17 cell culture supernatant, as well as with patient disease plasma, showed significant stimulation of JNK and p38 MAPK pathways and an increase in motility, which was blocked using a JNK inhibitor. We have previously shown that nephrotic plasma elicits a podocyte response via protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1). Stimulation of PAR-1 in podocytes elicited the same signaling response as Th17 cell culture supernatant treatment. Equally, protease inhibitors with Th17 cell culture treatment blocked the signaling response. This was not replicated by the reagents added to Th17 cell cultures or by IL-17A. Hence, we conclude that an undefined soluble mediator produced by Th17 cells mimics the deleterious effect of PAR-1 activation in vitro. Given the association between pathogenic subsets of Th17 cells and GC resistance, these observations have potential therapeutic relevance for patients with NS.

    Research areas

  • circulating factor, nephrotic syndrome, protease-activated receptor-1, podocyte, T helper 17



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