Collagen IV is a major structural component of all basal laminae (BLs). Six collagen IV alpha chains are present in mammals; alpha 1 and alpha 2(IV) are broadly expressed in embryos and adults, whereas alpha 3-6(IV) are restricted to a defined subset of BLs. In the glomerular BL of the kidney, the alpha 1 and alpha 2(IV) chains are replaced by the alpha 3-5(IV) chains as development proceeds. In humans, mutation of the collagen alpha 3, alpha 4, or alpha 5(IV) chain genes results in a delayed onset renal disease called Alport syndrome. We show here that mice lacking collagen alpha 3(IV) display a renal phenotype strikingly similar to Alport syndrome: decreased glomerular filtration (leading to uremia), compromised glomerular integrity (leading to proteinuria), structural changes in glomerular BL, and glomerulonephritis. Interestingly, numerous changes in the molecular composition of glomerular BL precede the onset of renal dysfunction; these include loss of collagens alpha 4 and alpha 5(IV), retention of collagen alpha 1/2(IV), appearance of fibronectin and collagen VI, and increased levels of perlecan. We suggest that these alterations contribute, along with loss of collagen IV isoforms per se, to renal pathology.

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