Cell-matrix interactions have been shown to be important during renal development and in various forms of kidney diseases. The α8 integrin chain is expressed during early nephrogenesis. In α8 gene mutated mice, lack of α8 results in unilateral or bilateral renal agenesis in part of the animals. No human disease with mutations in the α8 integrin gene locus has been described to date. However, similar renal defects are displayed in disorders with mutations affecting other adhesion molecules. In the kidneys of adult mice, α8 is expressed in vascular smooth muscle cells and mesangial cells of the glomerulus. Although α8-deficient mice surviving with reduced renal mass do not show any glomerular abnormalities, they have an increased susceptibility to glomerular damage upon mechanical or inflammatory stress of glomerular cells. Thus, α8 seems to be important for normal renal development and could help to maintain the structural integrity of the glomerulus following injury during various kidney diseases.
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