Nerve cell structure plays a major role in kidney function

July 24, 2018

Nerves attached to the glomeruli in the kidneysImage credit: Dr. Baptiste Lacoste and Naomi Boisvert

Chris Kennedy’s team has found that the nervous system controls how quickly the kidneys filter blood, and one protein is essential to this process. In the first study of its kind, the team found that a lack of the protein ubiquitin C-terminal hydrolase L1 (UCHL1) can significantly change the structure of nerve cells in the kidney, having a dramatic effect on kidney function. The kidneys filter out salts and toxins through tiny balls of blood vessels called glomeruli, and nerve cells control how much blood reaches these structures. If the filtration rate is too fast or too slow, it can damage the kidney. In mouse models without UCHL1, these nerve cells had trouble finding the right place to attach and let too much blood flood into the glomeruli. This new knowledge of how the filtration rate is controlled could one day be used in the treatment of kidney disease. Image credit: Dr. Baptiste Lacoste and Naomi Boisvert

“It was like a detective story," said Dr. Kennedy. "We had to go through all the possible reasons why the kidneys were filtering too fast to rule out the wrong answers and find the right one.”

Reference: Clinical Science

Authors: Naomi C. Boisvert, Chet E. Holterman, Jean-François Thibodeau, Rania Nasrallah, Eldjonai Kamto, Cesar H. Comin, Luciano da F. Costa, Anthony Carter, Richard L. Hébert, Alexey Gutsol, Gregory O. Cron, Baptiste Lacoste, Douglas A. Gray, Chris R. Kennedy

Funders: All research at The Ottawa Hospital is supported by generous donations to the hospital. This study was also supported by the Kidney Foundation of Canada.

Core Facilities used: Small Animal MRI

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