Pannexins are transmembrane glycoproteins that constitute channels involved in purinergic signaling through ATP release from cells in various physiological and pathological processes. In this study, the distribution of Panx1 expression in different cell populations of healthy postnatal human kidneys and during human embryonic and early fetal development was investigated by double immunohistochemistry. In addition, the glomerular and tubular expression of Panx1 was examined in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM2) and the control group, and renal Panx1 expression was correlated with serum creatinine. In the 6th week of embryonic development (DW), Panx1 expression was found in mesonephric glomeruli and mesonephric tubules. At the transition from 6th to 7th DW, Panx1 immunoreactivity was found in the mesonephric tubules and mesonephric duct, as well as in the metanephric ureteric bud and ampullae. In the 7th DW, strong Panx1 immunoreactivity was observed in the developing ureteric bud in the metanephros, whereas no Panx1 immunoreactivity was found in the metanephric cup. In the 8th DW, Panx1 expression was also found in the ureteric bud of the metanephros, the renal vesicle and comma-shaped nephron, and the epithelial cells of Bowman’s capsule. Expression of Panx1 was found at an early stage in both the paramesonephric duct and the mesonephric duct and diminished toward the 8th DW. During the 6th–10th DW, colocalization of Panx1 with alpha smooth actin (aSMA) was found in developing blood vessels. In the postnatal kidney, strong Panx1 immunoreactivity was present in medullary and cortical collecting duct cells, renin-producing cells, and proximal tubules. Very weak Panx1 immunoreactivity was found in certain distal tubule cells and the thin descending limbs of the loop of Henle. Panx1 immunoreactivity was also found in nephrin-immunoreactive podocytes. Panx1 was not colocalized with aSMA immunoreactivity in the vessels of the postnatal human kidney, but it was present in the endothelium. A significant positive correlation was found between Panx1 expression in glomeruli and serum creatinine only in diabetic patients and was not found in the nondiabetic group. The spatiotemporal expression of Panx1 during the early stages of human kidney development supports its possible role in cellular differentiation, migration, and positioning in the developing human kidney. In addition, our data suggest that glomerular Panx1 expression is a potential indicator of worsening renal function in patients with type 2 diabetes.
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