, Volume 42, Issue 11, pp 1341-1344

Podocyte number predicts long-term urinary albumin excretion in Pima Indians with Type II diabetes and microalbuminuria


Aims/hypothesis. The predictive value of glomerular structure on progression of renal disease was examined in patients with Type II (non-insulin-dependent) diabetes and microalbuminuria (urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio = 30–299 mg/g). Methods. Kidney biopsy specimens were obtained from 16 diabetic Pima Indians (6 men, 10 women). Progression of renal disease was assessed by measuring urinary albumin excretion 4 years after the biopsy (UAE4 years) and by computing the change in urinary albumin excretion during the study (Δ UAE). Results. At baseline, the duration of diabetes averaged 13.3 years (range = 4.0–23.8 years) and the mean glomerular filtration rate was 159 ml · min–1· 1.73m–2 (range = 98 – 239 ml · min–1· 1.73m–2). Median urinary albumin excretion was 67 mg/g (range = 25–136 mg/g) and it increased to 625 mg/g (range = 9–13471 mg/g) after 4 years; 10 subjects (63 %; 4 men, 6 women) developed macroalbuminuria (urinary albumin-to-creatinine ratio ≥ 300 mg/g). Neither mean arterial pressure nor HbA1 c changed substantially during follow-up. Among the glomerular morphologic characteristics, the number of visceral epithelial cells, or podocytes, per glomerulus was the strongest predictor of renal disease progression (UAE4 years, r = –0.49, p = 0.05; ΔUAE, r = –0.57, p = 0.02), with fewer cells predicting more rapid progression. Glomerular basement membrane thickness did not predict progression (UAE4 years, r = 0.11, p = 0.67; ΔUAE, r = 0.09, p = 0.73) and mesangial volume fraction had only a modest effect (UAE4 years, r = 0.42, p = 0.11; ΔUAE, r = 0.48, p = 0.06). Conclusion/interpretation. Whether lower epithelial cell number per glomerulus among those that progressed was due to cellular destruction, a reduced complement of epithelial cells, or both is uncertain. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that podocytes play an important part in the development and progression of diabetic renal disease. [Diabetologia (1999) 42: 1341–1344]

Received: 29 March 1999 and in final revised form: 16 July 1999