To evaluate the pathophysiological function of specific molecules in the renal glomerulus, selective, sustained, and modifiable expression of such molecules will be required. Towards achieving this end, we devised a gene transfer system using the glomerular mesangial cell as a vector for gene delivery. A reporter gene which encodes bacterial beta-galactosidase was introduced into cultured rat mesangial cells, and the stable transfectants were transferred into the rat kidney via the renal artery, leading to selective entrapment within the glomeruli. In the normal kidney, the reporter cells populated into 57 +/- 13% of glomeruli site specifically, and the expression of beta-galactosidase was sustained for 4 wk and declined thereafter. Within the glomerulus, some of the reporter cells remained in the glomerular capillaries, while others repopulated the mesangial area and, in part, extended their cytoplasmic processes toward the surrounding capillaries. When the cells were transferred into glomeruli subjected to transient mesangiolysis induced by monoclonal antibody 1-22-3, in situ expression of beta-galactosidase was amplified 7-12-fold, and the enhanced level of expression continued for up to 8 wk. The mesangial cell vector system thus achieves site-specific delivery of an exogenous gene into the glomerulus and is amenable to in situ amplification and sustained expression by preconditioning of the target site.
M Kitamura, S Taylor, R Unwin, S Burton, F Shimizu, L G Fine