Severe proteinuria is a defining factor of nephrotic syndrome irrespective of the etiology. Investigation of congenital nephrotic syndrome has shown that dysfunction of glomerular epithelial cells (podocytes) plays a crucial role in this disease. Acquired nephrotic syndrome is also assumed to be associated with podocyte injury. Here we identify an association between variants in GPC5, encoding glypican-5, and acquired nephrotic syndrome through a genome-wide association study and replication analysis (P value under a recessive model (P rec) = 6.0 × 10-11, odds ratio = 2.54). We show that GPC5 is expressed in podocytes and that the risk genotype is associated with higher expression. We further show that podocyte-specific knockdown and systemic short interfering RNA injection confers resistance to podocyte injury in mouse models of nephrosis. This study identifies GPC5 as a new susceptibility gene for nephrotic syndrome and implicates GPC5 as a promising therapeutic target for reducing podocyte vulnerability in glomerular disease.
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