Author(s): Xuan Zhao, Daw-Yang Hwang, and Hung-Ying Kao
Glucocorticoid receptor (GC), a founding member of the nuclear hormone receptor superfamily, is a glucocorticoid-activated transcription factor that regulates gene expression and controls the development and homeostasis of human podocytes. Synthetic glucocorticoids are the standard treatment regimens for proteinuria (protein in the urine) and nephrotic syndrome (NS) caused by kidney diseases. These include minimal change disease (MCD), focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS), membranous nephropathy (MN) and immunoglobulin A nephropathy (IgAN) or subsequent complications due to diabetes mellitus or HIV infection. However, unwanted side effects and steroid-resistance remain major issues for their long-term use. Furthermore, the mechanism by which glucocorticoids elicit their renoprotective activity in podocyte and glomeruli is poorly understood. Podocytes are highly differentiated epithelial cells that contribute to the integrity of kidney glomerular filtration barrier. Injury or loss of podocytes leads to proteinuria and nephrotic syndrome. Recent studies in multiple experimental models have begun to explore the mechanism of GC action in podocytes. This review will discuss progress in our understanding of the role of glucocorticoid receptor and glucocorticoids in podocyte physiology and their renoprotective activity in nephrotic syndrome.