Visualization of podocyte substructure with structured illumination microscopy (SIM): a new approach to nephrotic disease

James M. Pullman, Jonathan Nylk, Elaine C. Campbell, Frank J. Gunn-Moore, Michael B. Prystowsky, and Kishan Dholakia

Biomedical Optics Express 7(2), 302-311 (2016)

doi: 10.1364/BOE.7.000302

A detailed microscopic analysis of renal podocyte substructure is essential to understand and diagnose nephrotic kidney disease. Currently only time consuming electron microscopy (EM) can resolve this substructure. We used structured illumination microscopy (SIM) to examine frozen sections of renal biopsies stained with an immunofluorescence marker for podocin, a protein localized to the perimeter of the podocyte foot processes and compared them with EM in both normal and nephrotic disease biopsies. SIM images of normal glomeruli revealed curvilinear patterns of podocin densely covering capillary walls similar to podocyte foot processes seen by EM. Podocin staining of all nephrotic disease biopsies were significantly different than normal, corresponding to and better visualizing effaced foot processes seen by EM. The findings support the first potential use of SIM in the diagnosis of nephrotic disease.