Loss of sphingosine kinase 2 enhances Wilm's tumor suppressor gene 1 and nephrin expression in podocytes and protects from streptozotocin-induced podocytopathy and albuminuria in mice.

Imeri, Faik; Stepanovska Tanturovska, Bisera; Schwalm, Stephanie; Saha, Sarbari; Zeng-Brouwers, Jinyang; Pavenstädt, Herrmann; Pfeilschifter, Josef; Schaefer, Liliana; Huwiler, Andrea (2021). Loss of sphingosine kinase 2 enhances Wilm's tumor suppressor gene 1 and nephrin expression in podocytes and protects from streptozotocin-induced podocytopathy and albuminuria in mice. Matrix biology, 98, pp. 32-48. Elsevier 10.1016/j.matbio.2021.05.003

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The sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) is a bioactive sphingolipid that is now appreciated as key regulatory factor for various cellular functions in the kidney, including matrix remodeling. It is generated by two sphingosine kinases (Sphk), Sphk1 and Sphk2, which are ubiquitously expressed, but have distinct enzymatic activities and subcellular localizations. In this study, we have investigated the role of Sphk2 in podocyte function and its contribution to diabetic nephropathy. We show that streptozotocin (STZ)-induced nephropathy and albuminuria in mice is prevented by genetic depletion of Sphk2. This protection correlated with an increased protein expression of the transcription factor Wilm's tumor suppressor gene 1 (WT1) and its target gene nephrin, and a reduced macrophage infiltration in immunohistochemical renal sections of STZ-treated Sphk2-/- mice compared to STZ-treated wildtype mice. To investigate changes on the cellular level, we used an immortalized human podocyte cell line and generated a stable knockdown of Sphk2 (Sphk2-kd) by a lentiviral transduction method. These Sphk2-kd cells accumulated sphingosine as a consequence of the knockdown, and showed enhanced nephrin and WT1 mRNA and protein expressions similar to the finding in Sphk2 knockout mice. Treatment of wildtype podocytes with the highly selective Sphk2 inhibitor SLM6031434 caused a similar upregulation of nephrin and WT1 expression. Furthermore, exposing cells to the profibrotic mediator transforming growth factor β (TGFβ) resulted on the one side in reduced nephrin and WT1 expression, but on the other side, in upregulation of various profibrotic marker proteins, including connective tissue growth factor (CTGF), fibronectin (FN) and plasminogen activator inhibitor (PAI) 1. All these effects were reverted by Sphk2-kd and SLM6031434. Mechanistically, the protection by Sphk2-kd may depend on accumulated sphingosine and inhibited PKC activity, since treatment of cells with exogenous sphingosine not only reduced the phosphorylation pattern of PKC substrates, but also increased WT1 protein expression. Moreover, the selective stable knockdown of PKCδ increased WT1 expression, suggesting the involvement of this PKC isoenzyme in WT1 regulation. The glucocorticoid dexamethasone, which is a treatment option in many glomerular diseases and is known to mediate a nephroprotection, not only downregulated Sphk2 and enhanced cellular sphingosine, but also enhanced WT1 and nephrin expressions, thus, suggesting that parts of the nephroprotective effect of dexamethasone is mediated by Sphk2 downregulation. Altogether, our data demonstrated that loss of Sphk2 is protective in diabetes-induced podocytopathy and can prevent proteinuria, which is a hallmark of many glomerular diseases. Thus, Sphk2 could serve as a new attractive pharmacological target to treat proteinuric kidney diseases.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > Institute of Pharmacology

UniBE Contributor:

Imeri, Faik; Stepanovska Tanturovska, Bisera and Huwiler, Andrea


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Celine Joray

Date Deposited:

06 Jul 2021 14:59

Last Modified:

07 Jul 2021 01:34

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Diabetic nephropathy Glomerular disease Nephrin Podocytes S1P Sphk2 Wilm's tumor suppressor 1





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