What is it about?

Using the fruit fly, we found that a group of eight genes encoding the Exocyst complex to be essential for kidney function by recycling proteins that make up the slit diaphragm (the basic filtration structure of kidney cells). Using electron microscopy, a unique electron-dense tubular structures named “exocyst rods” was found in kidney cells with exocyst gene deficiency, suggesting the exocyst complex is crucial for maintaining the integrity of the slit diaphragm structures required for the kidney’s filtering function.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

Since both the exocyst genes and the basic filtration structures are highly conserved from flies to humans, our finding suggests that the exocyst genes are playing similar roles in human kidney cells, and mutations in these exocyst genes could lead to genetic kidney diseases.


Drosophila nephrocyte (the fly kidney cell) is a highly efficient model system to identify genes that are important for kidney cell function and understand the molecular mechanism of genetic kidney disease. This story is a great example to show how to use nephrocyte to identify all eight genes of the Exocyst complex genes as essential genes for kidney cells and then discover their roles in both kidney cell structure and function.

Zhe Han
University of Maryland School of Medicine

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Exocyst Genes Are Essential for Recycling Membrane Proteins and Maintaining Slit Diaphragm in Drosophila Nephrocytes, Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, April 2020, American Society of Nephrology,
DOI: 10.1681/asn.2019060591.
You can read the full text:




The following have contributed to this page