The kidney tubule consists of a single layer of epithelial cells supported by the tubular basement membrane (TBM), a thin layer of specialized extracellular matrix (ECM). The mechanical properties of the ECM are important for regulating a wide range of cell functions including proliferation, differentiation and cell survival. Increased ECM stiffness plays a role in promoting multiple pathological conditions including cancer, fibrosis and heart disease. How changes in TBM mechanics regulate tubular epithelial cell behavior is not fully understood. Here we introduce a cell culture system that utilizes in vivo-derived TBM to investigate cell–matrix interactions in kidney proximal tubule cells. Basement membrane mechanics was controlled using genipin, a biocompatibility crosslinker. Genipin modification resulted in a dose-dependent increase in matrix stiffness. Crosslinking had a marginal but statistically significant impact on the diffusive molecular transport properties of the TBM, likely due to a reduction in pore size. Both native and genipin-modified TBM substrates supported tubular epithelial cell growth. Cells were able to attach and proliferate to form confluent monolayers. Tubular epithelial cells polarized and assembled organized cell–cell junctions. Genipin modification had minimal impact on cell viability and proliferation. Genipin stiffened TBM increased gene expression of pro-fibrotic cytokines and altered gene expressionmore »
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A kidney proximal tubule model to evaluate effects of basement membrane stiffening on renal tubular epithelial cells
Bioengineered in vitro models of the kidney offer unprecedented opportunities to better mimic the in vivo microenvironment. Kidney-on-a-chip technology reproduces 2D or 3D features which can replicate features of the tissue architecture, composition, and dynamic mechanical forces experienced by cells in vivo. Kidney cells are exposed to mechanical stimuli such as substrate stiffness, shear stress, compression, and stretch, which regulate multiple cellular functions. Incorporating mechanical stimuli in kidney-on-a-chip is critically important for recapitulating the physiological or pathological microenvironment. This review will explore approaches to applying mechanical stimuli to different cell types using kidney-on-a-chip models and how these systems are used to study kidney physiology, model disease, and screen for drug toxicity. We further discuss sensor integration into kidney-on-a-chip for monitoring cellular responses to mechanical or other pathological stimuli. We discuss the advantages, limitations, and challenges associated with incorporating mechanical stimuli in kidney-on-a-chip models for a variety of applications. Overall, this review aims to highlight the importance of mechanical stimuli and sensor integration in the design and implementation of kidney-on-a-chip devices.
A Biomimetic In Vitro Model of the Kidney Filtration Barrier Using Tissue‐Derived Glomerular Basement Membrane
The glomerular filtration barrier (GFB) filters the blood to remove toxins while retaining high molecular weight proteins in the circulation. The glomerular basement membrane (GBM) and podocytes, highly specialized epithelial cells, are critical components of the filtration barrier. The GBM serves as a physical barrier to passage of molecules into the filtrate. Podocytes adhere to the filtrate side of the GBM and further restrict passage of high molecular weight molecules into the filtrate. Here, a 3D cell culture model of the glomerular filtration barrier to evaluate the role of the GBM and podocytes in mediating molecular diffusion is developed. GBM is isolated from mammalian kidneys to recapitulate the composition and mechanics of the in vivo basement membrane. The GFB model exhibits molecular selectivity that is comparable to the in vivo filtration barrier. The GBM alone provides a stringent barrier to passage of albumin and Ficoll. Podocytes further restrict molecular diffusion. Damage to the GBM that is typical of diabetic kidney disease is simulated using hypochlorous acid and results in increased molecular diffusion. This system can serve as a platform to evaluate the effects of GBM damage, podocyte injury, and reciprocal effects of altered podocyte–GBM interactions on kidney microvascular permeability.