Podocyte dysfunction, represented by foot process effacement and proteinuria, is often the starting point for progressive kidney disease. Therapies aimed at the cellular level of the disease are currently not available. Here we show that induction of urokinase receptor (uPAR) signaling in podocytes leads to foot process effacement and urinary protein loss via a mechanism that includes lipid-dependent activation of avb3 integrin. Mice lacking uPAR (Plaur –/–) are protected from lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-mediated proteinuria but develop disease after expression of a constitutively active b3 integrin. Gene transfer studies reveal a prerequisite for uPAR expression in podocytes, but not in endothelial cells, for the development of LPS-mediated proteinuria. Mechanistically, uPAR is required to activate avb3 integrin in podocytes, promoting cell motility and activation of the small GTPases Cdc42 and Rac1. Blockade of avb3 integrin reduces podocyte motility in vitro and lowers proteinuria in mice. Our findings show a physiological role for uPAR signaling in the regulation of kidney permeability.
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