Previous studies showed that abnormal mitochondrial structure and function were involved in the pathological process of diabetic nephropathy (DN). The dynamic mitochondrial processes, including fusion and fission, maintain the mass and quantity of mitochondria. Podocyte injury is a critical factor in the development and progression of DN. The present study evaluated the mitochondrial fission of podocytes in patients with DN.
We recruited 31 patients with biopsy-confirmed DN. A quantitative analysis of the mitochondrial morphology was conducted with electron microscopy using a computer-assisted morphometric analysis application to calculate the aspect ratio values. Immunofluorescence assays were used to evaluate protein colocalization in the glomeruli of patients.
The urine protein level was significantly increased in DN patients compared to non-DN patients (P < 0.001), and the mitochondria in the podocytes from DN patients were more fragmentated than those from patients without DN. The mitochondrial aspect ratio values were negatively correlated with the proteinuria levels (r = −0.574, P = 0.01), and multiple regression analysis verified that the mitochondrial aspect ratio was significantly and independently associated with the urine protein level (β = −0.519, P = 0.007). In addition, Drp1, a mitochondrial fission factor, preferentially combines with AKAP1, which is located in the mitochondrial membrane.
In the podocytes of DN patients, mitochondrial fragmentation was increased, and mitochondrial aspect ratio values were correlated with the proteinuria levels. The AKAP1-Drp1 pathway may contribute to mitochondrial fission in the pathogenesis of DN.