IGFBP-1 expression is reduced in human type 2 diabetic glomeruli and modulates β1-integrin/FAK signalling in human podocytes

Abigail C. Lay, Lorna J. Hale, Holly Stowell-Connolly, Robert J. P. Pope, Viji Nair, Wenjun Ju, Eva Marquez, Ruth Rollason, Jenny A. Hurcombe, Bryony Hayes, Timothy Roberts, Lawrence Gillam, Jonathan Allington, Robert G. Nelson, Matthias Kretzler, Jeff M. P. Holly, Claire M. Perks, Craig A. McArdle, Gavin I. Welsh, Richard J. M. Coward

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


AIMS/HYPOTHESIS: Podocyte loss or injury is one of the earliest features observed in the pathogenesis of diabetic kidney disease (DKD), which is the leading cause of end-stage renal failure worldwide. Dysfunction in the IGF axis, including in IGF binding proteins (IGFBPs), is associated with DKD, particularly in the early stages of disease progression. The aim of this study was to investigate the potential roles of IGFBPs in the development of type 2 DKD, focusing on podocytes.

METHODS: IGFBP expression was analysed in the Pima DKD cohort, alongside data from the Nephroseq database, and in ex vivo human glomeruli. Conditionally immortalised human podocytes and glomerular endothelial cells were studied in vitro, where IGFBP-1 expression was analysed using quantitative PCR and ELISAs. Cell responses to IGFBPs were investigated using migration, cell survival and adhesion assays; electrical cell-substrate impedance sensing; western blotting; and high-content automated imaging.

RESULTS: Data from the Pima DKD cohort and from the Nephroseq database demonstrated a significant reduction in glomerular IGFBP-1 in the early stages of human type 2 DKD. In the glomerulus, IGFBP-1 was predominantly expressed in podocytes and controlled by phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)-forkhead box O1 (FoxO1) activity. In vitro, IGFBP-1 signalled to podocytes via β1-integrins, resulting in increased phosphorylation of focal-adhesion kinase (FAK), increasing podocyte motility, adhesion, electrical resistance across the adhesive cell layer and cell viability.

CONCLUSIONS/INTERPRETATION: This work identifies a novel role for IGFBP-1 in the regulation of podocyte function and that the glomerular expression of IGFBP-1 is reduced in the early stages of type 2 DKD, via reduced FoxO1 activity. Thus, we hypothesise that strategies to maintain glomerular IGFBP-1 levels may be beneficial in maintaining podocyte function early in DKD.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1690-1702
Number of pages13
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jul 2021


  • Biopsy
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2/genetics
  • Diabetic Nephropathies/genetics
  • Endothelial Cells/metabolism
  • Focal Adhesion Protein-Tyrosine Kinases/metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor Binding Protein 1/genetics
  • Integrin beta1/metabolism
  • Kidney Glomerulus/metabolism
  • Kidney/metabolism
  • Podocytes/metabolism
  • Signal Transduction/genetics


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