Nephrin belongs to a family of highly conserved proteins with a well characterized function as modulators of cell adhesion and guidance, and nephrin may have a role in metabolic pathways linked to podocyte and pancreatic β–cell survival. However, this role is incompletely characterized. In this study, we developed floxed nephrin mice for pancreatic β-cell–specific deletion of nephrin, which had no effect on islet size and glycemia. Nephrin deficiency, however, resulted in glucose intolerance in vivo and impaired glucose–stimulated insulin release ex vivo. Glucose intolerance was also observed in eight patients with nephrin mutations compared with three patients with other genetic forms of nephrotic syndrome or nine healthy controls. In vitro experiments were conducted to investigate if nephrin affects autocrine signaling through insulin receptor A (IRA) and B (IRB), which are both expressed in human podocytes and pancreatic islets. Coimmunoprecipitation of nephrin and IRB but not IRA was observed and required IR phosphorylation. Nephrin per se was sufficient to induce phosphorylation of p70S6K in an phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase–dependent but IR/Src-independent manner, which was not augmented by exogenous insulin. These results suggest a role for nephrin as an independent modulator of podocyte and pancreatic β–cell nutrient sensing in the fasting state and the potential of nephrin as a drug target in diabetes.
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