Cells (Jul 2021)

Novel Human Podocyte Cell Model Carrying G2/G2 APOL1 High-Risk Genotype

  • Pepe M. Ekulu,
  • Oyindamola C. Adebayo,
  • Jean-Paul Decuypere,
  • Linda Bellucci,
  • Mohamed A. Elmonem,
  • Agathe B. Nkoy,
  • Djalila Mekahli,
  • Benedetta Bussolati,
  • Lambertus P. van den Heuvel,
  • Fanny O. Arcolino,
  • Elena N. Levtchenko

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 10, no. 8
p. 1914


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Apolipoprotein L1 (APOL1) high-risk genotypes (HRG), G1 and G2, increase the risk of various non-diabetic kidney diseases in the African population. To date, the precise mechanisms by which APOL1 risk variants induce injury on podocytes and other kidney cells remain unclear. Trying to unravel these mechanisms, most studies have used animal or cell models created by gene editing. We developed and characterised conditionally immortalised human podocyte cell lines derived from urine of a donor carrying APOL1 HRG G2/G2. Following induction of APOL1 expression by polyinosinic-polycytidylic acid (poly(I:C)), we assessed functional features of APOL1-induced podocyte dysfunction. As control, APOL1 wild type (G0/G0) podocyte cell line previously generated from a Caucasian donor was used. Upon exposure to poly(I:C), G2/G2 and G0/G0 podocytes upregulated APOL1 expression resulting in podocytes detachment, decreased cells viability and increased apoptosis rate in a genotype-independent manner. Nevertheless, G2/G2 podocyte cell lines exhibited altered features, including upregulation of CD2AP, alteration of cytoskeleton, reduction of autophagic flux and increased permeability in an in vitro model under continuous perfusion. The human APOL1 G2/G2 podocyte cell model is a useful tool for unravelling the mechanisms of APOL1-induced podocyte injury and the cellular functions of APOL1.