CD40/CD40 ligand (CD40L) dyad, a co-stimulatory bi-molecular complex involved in the adaptive immune response, has also potent pro-inflammatory actions in haematopoietic and non-haematopoietic cells. We describe here a novel role for soluble CD40L (sCD40L) as modifier of glomerular permselectivity directly acting on glomerular epithelial cells (GECs). We found that stimulation of CD40, constitutively expressed on GEC cell membrane, by the sCD40L rapidly induced redistribution and loss of nephrin in GECs, and increased albumin permeability in isolated rat glomeruli. Pre-treatment with inhibitors of CD40-CD40L interaction completely prevented these effects. Furthermore, in vivo injection of sCD40L induced a significant reduction of nephrin and podocin expression in mouse glomeruli, although no significant increase of urine protein/creatinine ratio was observed after in vivo injection. The same effects were induced by plasma factors partially purified from post-transplant plasma exchange eluates of patients with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), and were blocked by CD40-CD40L inhibitors. Moreover, 17 and 34 kDa sCD40L isoforms were detected in the same plasmapheresis eluates by Western blotting. Finally, the levels of sCD40Lwere significantly increased in serum of children both with steroid-sensitive and steroid-resistant nephrotic syndrome (NS), and in adult patients with biopsy-proven FSGS, compared to healthy subjects, but neither in children with congenital NS nor in patients with membranous nephropathy. Our results demonstrate that sCD40L directly modifies nephrin and podocin distribution in GECs. Moreover, they suggest that sCD40L contained in plasmapheresis eluates from FSGS patients with post-transplant recurrence may contribute, presumably cooperating with other mediators, to FSGS pathogenesis by modulating glomerular permeability.
Doublier, S., Zennaro, C., Musante, L., Spatola, T., Candiano, G., Bruschi, M., … Lupia, E. (2017). Soluble CD40 ligand directly alters glomerular permeability and may act as a circulating permeability factor in FSGS. PLoS ONE, 12(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0188045