Abstract

Healthy aging is typified by a progressive and absolute loss of podocytes over the lifespan of animals and humans. To test the hypothesis that a subset of glomerular parietal epithelial cell (PEC) progenitors transition to a podocyte fate with aging, dual reporter PEC-rtTA|LC1|tdTomato|Nphs1-FLPo|FRT-EGFP mice were generated. PECs were inducibly labeled with a tdTomato reporter, and podocytes were constitutively labeled with an EGFP reporter. With advancing age (14 and 24 months) glomeruli in the juxta-medullary cortex (JMC) were more severely injured than those in the outer cortex (OC). In aged mice (24m), injured glomeruli with lower podocyte number (41% decrease), showed more PEC migration and differentiation to a podocyte fate than mildly injured or healthy glomeruli. PECs differentiated to a podocyte fate had ultrastructural features of podocytes and co-expressed the podocyte markers podocin, nephrin, p57 and VEGF164, but not markers of mesangial (Perlecan) or endothelial (ERG) cells. PECs differentiated to a podocyte fate did not express CD44, a marker of PEC activation. Taken together, we demonstrate that a subpopulation of PECs differentiate to a podocyte fate predominantly in injured glomeruli in mice of advanced age.