Formation of the glomerular microvasculature is regulated by VEGFR-3

Michael D. Donnan, Dilip K. Deb, Tuncer Onay, Rizaldy P. Scott, Eric Ni, Yalu Zhou, Susan E. Quaggin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Microvascular dysfunction is a key driver of kidney disease. Pathophysiological changes in the kidney vasculature are regulated by vascular endothelial growth factor receptors (VEGFRs), supporting them as potential therapeutic targets. The tyrosine kinase receptor VEGFR-3, encoded by FLT4 and activated by the ligands VEGF-C and VEGF-D, is best known for its role in lymphangiogenesis. Therapeutically targeting VEGFR-3 to modulate lymphangiogenesis has been proposed as a strategy to treat kidney disease. However, outside the lymphatics, VEGFR-3 is also expressed in blood vascular endothelial cells in several tissues including the kidney. Here, we show that Vegfr-3 is expressed in fenestrated microvascular beds within the developing and adult mouse kidney, which include the glomerular capillary loops. We found that expression levels of VEGFR-3 are dynamic during glomerular capillary loop development, with the highest expression observed during endothelial cell migration into the S-shaped glomerular body. We developed a conditional knockout mouse model for Vegfr-3 and found that loss of Vegfr-3 resulted in a striking glomerular phenotype characterized by aneurysmal dilation of capillary loops, absence of mesangial structure, abnormal interendothelial cell junctions, and poor attachment between glomerular endothelial cells and the basement membrane. In addition, we demonstrated that expression of the VEGFR-3 ligand VEGF-C by podocytes and mesangial cells is dispensable for glomerular development. Instead, VEGFR-3 in glomerular endothelial cells attenuates VEGFR-2 phosphorylation. Together, the results of our study support a VEGF-C-independent functional role for VEGFR-3 in the kidney microvasculature outside of lymphatic vessels, which has implications for clinical therapies that target this receptor.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Targeting VEGFR-3 in kidney lymphatics has been proposed as a method to treat kidney disease. However, expression of VEGFR-3 is not lymphatic-specific. We demonstrated developmental expression of VEGFR-3 in glomerular endothelial cells, with loss of Vegfr-3 leading to malformation of glomerular capillary loops. Furthermore, we showed that VEGFR-3 attenuates VEGFR-2 activity in glomerular endothelial cells independent of paracrine VEGF-C signaling. Together, these data provide valuable information for therapeutic development targeting these pathways.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F91-F105
JournalAmerican journal of physiology. Renal physiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2023


  • development
  • glomerulus
  • kidney
  • vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3
  • vasculature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urology
  • Physiology


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