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Glomerular disease is characterized by morphologic changes in podocyte cells accompanied by inflammation and fibrosis. Thymosin β4 regulates cell morphology, inflammation, and fibrosis in several organs and administration of exogenous thymosin β4 improves animal models of unilateral ureteral obstruction and diabetic nephropathy. However, the role of endogenous thymosin β4 in the kidney is unknown. We demonstrate that thymosin β4 is expressed prominently in podocytes of developing and adult mouse glomeruli. Global loss of thymosin β4 did not affect healthy glomeruli, but accelerated the severity of immune-mediated nephrotoxic nephritis with worse renal function, periglomerular inflammation, and fibrosis. Lack of thymosin β4 in nephrotoxic nephritis led to the redistribution of podocytes from the glomerular tuft toward the Bowman capsule suggesting a role for thymosin β4 in the migration of these cells. Thymosin β4 knockdown in cultured podocytes also increased migration in a wound-healing assay, accompanied by F-actin rearrangement and increased RhoA activity. We propose that endogenous thymosin β4 is a modifier of glomerular injury, likely having a protective role acting as a brake to slow disease progression.

Original publication




Journal article


Kidney International



Publication Date



Developmental Biology and Cancer Programme, UCL Institute of Child Health, London, United Kingdom.