Several studies have shown that activation of the renin-angiotensin system may lead to hypertension, a major risk factor for the development of chronic kidney disease (CKD). The existing hypertension-induced CDK mouse models are quite fast and consequently away from the human pathology. Thus, there is an urgent need for a mouse model that can be used to delineate the pathogenic process leading to progressive renal disease. The objective of this study was dual: to investigate whether mice overexpressing renin could mimic the kinetics and the physiopathological characteristics of hypertension-induced renal disease and to identify cellular and/or molecular events characterizing the different steps of the progression of CKD.
We used a novel transgenic strain, the RenTg mice harboring a genetically clamped renin transgene. At 3 months, heterozygous mice are hypertensive and slightly albuminuric. The expression of adhesion markers such as vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 are increased in the renal vasculature indicating initiation of endothelial dysfunction. At 5 months, perivascular and periglomerular infiltrations of macrophages are observed. These early renal vascular events are followed at 8 months by leukocyte invasion, decreased expression of nephrin, increased expression of KIM-1, a typical protein of tubular cell stress, and of several pro-fibrotic agents of the TGFβ family. At 12 months, mice display characteristic structural alterations of hypertensive renal disease such as glomerular ischemia, glomerulo- and nephroangio-sclerosis, mesangial expansion and tubular dilation.
The RenTg strain develops CKD progressively. In this model, endothelial dysfunction is an early event preceding the structural and fibrotic alterations which ultimately lead to the development of CKD. This model can provide new insights into the mechanisms of chronic renal failure and help to identify new targets for arresting and/or reversing the development of the disease.
Interleukin 18 (IL-18) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that mediates fibrotic renal injury during obstruction. Macrophages are a well-known source of IL-18; however, renal tubular epithelial cells are also a potential source of this cytokine. We hypothesized that IL-18 is predominantly a renal tubular cell product and is produced during renal obstruction independent of macrophage infiltration.
To study this, male C57BL6 mice were subjected to unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) vs. sham operation in the presence or absence of macrophage depletion (liposomal clodronate (1 ml/100 g body weight i.v.)). The animals were sacrificed 1 week after surgery and renal cortical tissue harvested. Tissue levels of active IL-18 (ELISA), IL-18 receptor mRNA expression (real time PCR), and active caspase-1 expression (western blot) were measured. The cellular localization of IL-18 and IL-18R was assessed using dual labeling immunofluorescent staining (IFS).
Immunohistochemical staining of renal tissue sections confirmed macrophage depletion by liposomal clodronate. IL-18 production, IL-18R expression, and active caspase 1 expression were elevated in response to renal obstruction and did not decline to a significant degree in the presence of macrophage depletion. Obstruction-induced IL-18 and IL-18R production localized predominantly to tubular epithelial cells (TEC) during obstruction despite macrophage depletion.
These results demonstrate that renal tubular epithelial cells are the primary source of IL-18 production during obstructive injury, and that tubular cell production of IL-18 occurs independent of macrophage infiltration.
Acid sphingomyelinase (ASM) has been implicated in the development of hyperhomocysteinemia (hHcys)-induced glomerular oxidative stress and injury. However, it remains unknown whether genetically engineering of ASM gene produces beneficial or detrimental action on hHcys-induced glomerular injury. The present study generated and characterized the mice lacking cystathionine β-synthase (Cbs) and Asm mouse gene by cross breeding Cbs+/− and Asm+/− mice. Given that the homozygotes of Cbs−/−/Asm−/− mice could not survive for 3 weeks. Cbs+/−/Asm+/+, Cbs+/−/Asm+/− and Cbs+/−/Asm−/− as well as their Cbs wild type littermates were used to study the role of Asm−/− under a background of Cbs+/− with hHcys. HPLC analysis revealed that plasma Hcys level was significantly elevated in Cbs heterozygous (Cbs+/−) mice with different copies of Asm gene compared to Cbs+/+ mice with different Asm gene copies. Cbs+/−/Asm+/+ mice had significantly increased renal Asm activity, ceramide production and O2.− level compared to Cbs+/+/Asm+/+, while Cbs+/−/Asm−/− mice showed significantly reduced renal Asm activity, ceramide production and O2.− level due to increased plasma Hcys levels. Confocal microscopy demonstrated that colocalization of podocin with ceramide was much lower in Cbs+/−/Asm−/− mice compared to Cbs+/−/Asm+/+ mice, which was accompanied by a reduced glomerular damage index, albuminuria and proteinuria in Cbs+/−/Asm−/− mice. Immunofluorescent analyses of the podocin, nephrin and desmin expression also illustrated less podocyte damages in the glomeruli from Cbs+/−/Asm−/− mice compared to Cbs+/−/Asm+/+ mice. In in vitro studies of podocytes, hHcys-enhanced O2.− production, desmin expression, and ceramide production as well as decreases in VEGF level and podocin expression in podocytes were substantially attenuated by prior treatment with amitriptyline, an Asm inhibitor. In conclusion, Asm gene knockout or corresponding enzyme inhibition protects the podocytes and glomeruli from hHcys-induced oxidative stress and injury.
Podocyte or endothelial cell VEGF-A knockout causes thrombotic microangiopathy in adult mice. To study the mechanism involved in acute and local injury caused by low podocyte VEGF-A we developed an inducible, podocyte-specific VEGF-A knockdown mouse, and we generated an immortalized podocyte cell line (VEGFKD) that downregulates VEGF-A upon doxycycline exposure. Tet-O-siVEGF:podocin-rtTA mice express VEGF shRNA in podocytes in a doxycycline-regulated manner, decreasing VEGF-A mRNA and VEGF-A protein levels in isolated glomeruli to ∼20% of non-induced controls and urine VEGF-A to ∼30% of control values a week after doxycycline induction. Induced tet-O-siVEGF:podocin-rtTA mice developed acute renal failure and proteinuria, associated with mesangiolysis and microaneurisms. Glomerular ultrastructure revealed endothelial cell swelling, GBM lamination and podocyte effacement. VEGF knockdown decreased podocyte fibronectin and glomerular endothelial alphaVbeta3 integrin in vivo. VEGF receptor-2 (VEGFR2) interacts with beta3 integrin and neuropilin-1 in the kidney in vivo and in VEGFKD podocytes. Podocyte VEGF knockdown disrupts alphaVbeta3 integrin activation in glomeruli, detected by WOW1-Fab. VEGF silencing in cultured VEGFKD podocytes downregulates fibronectin and disrupts alphaVbeta3 integrin activation cell-autonomously. Collectively, these studies indicate that podocyte VEGF-A regulates alphaVbeta3 integrin signaling in the glomerulus, and that podocyte VEGF knockdown disrupts alphaVbeta3 integrin activity via decreased VEGFR2 signaling, thereby damaging the three layers of the glomerular filtration barrier, causing proteinuria and acute renal failure.
Recent studies have described that the Notch signaling pathway is activated in a wide range of renal diseases. Angiotensin II (AngII) plays a key role in the progression of kidney diseases. AngII contributes to renal fibrosis by upregulation of profibrotic factors, induction of epithelial mesenchymal transition and accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins. In cultured human tubular epithelial cells the Notch activation by transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) has been involved in epithelial mesenchymal transition. AngII mimics many profibrotic actions of TGF-β1. For these reasons, our aim was to investigate whether AngII could regulate the Notch/Jagged system in the kidney, and its potential role in AngII-induced responses. In cultured human tubular epithelial cells, TGF-β1, but not AngII, increased the Notch pathway-related gene expression, Jagged-1 synthesis, and caused nuclear translocation of the activated Notch. In podocytes and renal fibroblasts, AngII did not modulate the Notch pathway. In tubular epithelial cells, pharmacological Notch inhibition did not modify AngII-induced changes in epithelial mesenchymal markers, profibrotic factors and extracellular matrix proteins. Systemic infusion of AngII into rats for 2 weeks caused tubulointerstitial fibrosis, but did not upregulate renal expression of activated Notch-1 or Jagged-1, as observed in spontaneously hypertensive rats. Moreover, the Notch/Jagged system was not modulated by AngII type I receptor blockade in the model of unilateral ureteral obstruction in mice. These data clearly indicate that AngII does not regulate the Notch/Jagged signaling system in the kidney, in vivo and in vitro. Our findings showing that the Notch pathway is not involved in AngII-induced fibrosis could provide important information to understand the complex role of Notch system in the regulation of renal regeneration vs damage progression.
Conditional gene targeting in mice has provided great insight into the role of gene function in kidney development and disease. Although a number of Cre-driver mouse strains already exist for the kidney, development of additional strains with unique expression patterns is needed. Here we report the generation and validation of a Tcf21/Pod1-Cre driver strain that expresses Cre recombinase throughout the condensing and stromal mesenchyme of developing kidneys and in their derivatives including epithelial components of the nephron and interstitial cells. To test the efficiency of this line, we crossed it to mice transgenic for either loss or gain of function β-catenin conditional alleles. Mice with deletion of β-catenin from Tcf21-expressing cells are born with hypoplastic kidneys, hydroureters and hydronephrosis. By contrast, Tcf21-Cre driven gain of function for β-catenin in mice results in fused midline kidneys and hypoplastic kidneys. Finally, we report the first renal mesenchymal deletion of Patched1 (Ptch1), the receptor for sonic hedgehog (Shh), which results in renal cysts demonstrating a functional role of Shh signaling pathway in renal cystogensis. In summary, we report the generation and validation of a new Cre driver strain that provides robust excision in metanephric mesenchyme.
BAMBI is a type I TGFβ receptor antagonist, whose in vivo function remains unclear, as BAMBI−/− mice lack an obvious phenotype.
Identifying BAMBI’s functions requires identification of cell-specific expression of BAMBI. By immunohistology we found BAMBI expression restricted to endothelial cells and by electron microscopy BAMBI−/− mice showed prominent and swollen endothelial cells in myocardial and glomerular capillaries. In endothelial cells over-expression of BAMBI reduced, whereas knock-down enhanced capillary growth and migration in response to TGFβ. In vivo angiogenesis was enhanced in matrigel implants and in glomerular hypertrophy after unilateral nephrectomy in BAMBI−/− compared to BAMBI+/+ mice consistent with an endothelial phenotype for BAMBI−/− mice. BAMBI’s mechanism of action in endothelial cells was examined by canonical and alternative TGFβ signaling in HUVEC with over-expression or knock-down of BAMBI. BAMBI knockdown enhanced basal and TGFβ stimulated SMAD1/5 and ERK1/2 phosphorylation, while over-expression prevented both.
Thus we provide a first description of a vascular phenotype for BAMBI−/− mice, and provide in vitro and in vivo evidence that BAMBI contributes to endothelial and vascular homeostasis. Further, we demonstrate that in endothelial cells BAMBI interferes with alternative TGFβ signaling, most likely through the ALK 1 receptor, which may explain the phenotype observed in BAMBI−/− mice. This newly described role for BAMBI in regulating endothelial function has potential implications for understanding and treating vascular disease and tumor neo-angiogenesis.
The vasculature of the kidney is a heterogeneous structure, whose functional integrity is essential for the regulation of renal function. Owing to the importance of the endothelium in vascular biology, chronic endothelial alterations are therefore susceptible to impair multiple aspects of renal physiology and, in turn, to contribute to renal fibrosis. Although systemic endothelial dysfunction is undoubtedly associated with chronic kidney disease, the role of the renal endothelium in the initiation and the progression of renal fibrosis remains largely elusive. In this article, we critically review recent evidence supporting direct and indirect contributions of renal endothelial alterations to fibrosis in the kidney. Specifically, the potential implications of renal endothelial dysfunction and endothelial paucity in parenchymal hypoxia, in the regulation of local inflammation, and in the generation of renal mesenchymal cells are reviewed. We thereafter discuss therapeutic perspectives targeting renal endothelial alterations during the initiation and the progression of renal fibrogenesis.
Arterial hypertension (AH) induces cardiac hypertrophy and reactivation of “fetal” gene expression. In rodent heart, alpha-Myosin Heavy Chain (MyHC) and its micro-RNA miR-208a regulate the expression of beta-MyHC and of its intronic miR-208b. However, the role of aldosterone in these processes remains unclear.
RT-PCR and western-blot were used to investigate the genes modulated by arterial hypertension and cardiac hyperaldosteronism. We developed a model of double-transgenic mice (AS-Ren) with cardiac hyperaldosteronism (AS mice) and systemic hypertension (Ren). AS-Ren mice had increased (x2) angiotensin II in plasma and increased (x2) aldosterone in heart. Ren and AS-Ren mice had a robust and similar hypertension (+70%) versus their controls. Anatomical data and echocardiography showed a worsening of cardiac hypertrophy (+41%) in AS-Ren mice (P<0.05 vs Ren). The increase of ANP (x 2.5; P<0.01) mRNA observed in Ren mice was blunted in AS-Ren mice. This non-induction of antitrophic natriuretic peptides may be involved in the higher trophic cardiac response in AS-Ren mice, as indicated by the markedly reduced cardiac hypertrophy in ANP-infused AS-Ren mice for one month. Besides, the AH-induced increase of ßMyHC and its intronic miRNA-208b was prevented in AS-Ren. The inhibition of miR 208a (−75%, p<0.001) in AS-Ren mice compared to AS was associated with increased Sox 6 mRNA (x 1.34; p<0.05), an inhibitor of ßMyHC transcription. Eplerenone prevented all aldosterone-dependent effects.
Our results indicate that increased aldosterone in heart inhibits the induction of atrial natriuretic peptide expression, via the mineralocorticoid receptor. This worsens cardiac hypertrophy without changing blood pressure. Moreover, this work reveals an original aldosterone-dependent inhibition of miR-208a in hypertension, resulting in the inhibition of β-myosin heavy chain expression through the induction of its transcriptional repressor Sox6. Thus, aldosterone inhibits the fetal program and increases cardiac hypertrophy in hypertensive mice.
IQGAP1 is a scaffold protein that interacts with proteins of the cytoskeleton and the intercellular adhesion complex. In podocytes, IQGAP1 is associated with nephrin in the glomerular slit diaphragm (SD) complex, but its role remains ill-defined. In this work, we investigated the interaction of IQGAP1 with the cytoskeleton and SD proteins in podocytes in culture, and its role in podocyte migration and permeability. Expression, localization, and interactions between IQGAP1 and SD or cytoskeletal proteins were determined in cultured human podocytes by Western blot (WB), immunocytolocalization (IC), immunoprecipitation (IP), and In situ Proximity Ligation assay (IsPL). Involvement of IQGAP1 in migration and permeability was also assessed. IQGAP1 expression in normal kidney biopsies was studied by immunohistochemistry. IQGAP1 expression by podocytes increased during their in vitro differentiation. IC, IP, and IsPL experiments showed colocalizations and/or interactions between IQGAP1 and SD proteins (nephrin, MAGI-1, CD2AP, NCK 1/2, podocin), podocalyxin, and cytoskeletal proteins (α-actinin-4). IQGAP1 silencing decreased podocyte migration and increased the permeability of a podocyte layer. Immunohistochemistry on normal human kidney confirmed IQGAP1 expression in podocytes and distal tubular epithelial cells and also showed an expression in glomerular parietal epithelial cells. In summary, our results suggest that IQGAP1, through its interaction with components of SD and cytoskeletal proteins, is involved in podocyte barrier properties.
FGF1 is a signal peptide-less nonclassically released growth factor that is involved in angiogenesis, tissue repair, inflammation, and carcinogenesis. The effects of nonclassical FGF export in vivo are not sufficiently studied. We produced transgenic mice expressing FGF1 in endothelial cells (EC), which allowed the detection of FGF1 export to the vasculature, and studied the efficiency of postischemic kidney repair in these animals. Although FGF1 transgenic mice had a normal phenotype with unperturbed kidney structure, they showed a severely inhibited kidney repair after unilateral ischemia/reperfusion. This was manifested by a strong decrease of postischemic kidney size and weight, whereas the undamaged contralateral kidney exhibited an enhanced compensatory size increase. In addition, the postischemic kidneys of transgenic mice were characterized by hyperplasia of interstitial cells, paucity of epithelial tubular structures, increase of the areas occupied by connective tissue, and neutrophil and macrophage infiltration. The continuous treatment of transgenic mice with the cell membrane stabilizer, taurine, inhibited nonclassical FGF1 export and significantly rescued postischemic kidney repair. It was also found that similar to EC, the transgenic expression of FGF1 in monocytes and macrophages suppresses kidney repair. We suggest that nonclassical export may be used as a target for the treatment of pathologies involving signal peptide-less FGFs.
Akita mice are a genetic model of type 1 diabetes. In the present studies, we investigated the phenotype of Akita mice on the FVB/NJ background and examined urinary nephrin excretion as a marker of kidney injury. Male Akita mice were compared with non-diabetic controls for functional and structural characteristics of renal and cardiac disease. Podocyte number and apoptosis as well as urinary nephrin excretion were determined in both groups. Male FVB/NJ Akita mice developed sustained hyperglycemia and albuminuria by 4 and 8 weeks of age, respectively. These abnormalities were accompanied by a significant increase in systolic blood pressure in 10-week old Akita mice, which was associated with functional, structural and molecular characteristics of cardiac hypertrophy. By 20 weeks of age, Akita mice developed a 10-fold increase in albuminuria, renal and glomerular hypertrophy and a decrease in the number of podocytes. Mild-to-moderate glomerular mesangial expansion was observed in Akita mice at 30 weeks of age. In 4-week old Akita mice, the onset of hyperglycemia was accompanied by increased podocyte apoptosis and enhanced excretion of nephrin in urine before the development of albuminuria. Urinary nephrin excretion was also significantly increased in albuminuric Akita mice at 16 and 20 weeks of age and correlated with the albumin excretion rate. These data suggest that: 1. FVB/NJ Akita mice have phenotypic characteristics that may be useful for studying the mechanisms of kidney and cardiac injury in diabetes, and 2. Enhanced urinary nephrin excretion is associated with kidney injury in FVB/NJ Akita mice and is detectable early in the disease process.
The immunosuppressive mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) inhibitors are widely used in solid organ transplantation, but their effect on kidney disease progression is controversial. mTOR has emerged as one of the main pathways regulating cell growth, proliferation, differentiation, migration, and survival.
The aim of this study was to analyze the effects of delayed inhibition of mTOR pathway with low dose of everolimus on progression of renal disease and TGFβ expression in the 5/6 nephrectomy model in Wistar rats.
This study evaluated the effects of everolimus (0.3 mg/k/day) introduced 15 days after surgical procedure on renal function, proteinuria, renal histology and mechanisms of fibrosis and proliferation.
Everolimus treated group (EveG) showed significantly less proteinuria and albuminuria, less glomerular and tubulointerstitial damage and fibrosis, fibroblast activation cell proliferation, when compared with control group (CG), even though the EveG remained with high blood pressure. Treatment with everolimus also diminished glomerular hypertrophy.
Everolimus effectively inhibited the increase of mTOR developed in 5/6 nephrectomy animals, without changes in AKT mRNA or protein abundance, but with an increase in the pAKT/AKT ratio. Associated with this inhibition, everolimus blunted the increased expression of TGFβ observed in the remnant kidney model.
Delayed mTOR inhibition with low dose of everolimus significantly prevented progressive renal damage and protected the remnant kidney. mTOR and TGFβ mRNA reduction can partially explain this anti fibrotic effect. mTOR can be a new target to attenuate the progression of chronic kidney disease even in those nephropathies of non-immunologic origin.
Progression of chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a major health issue due to persistent accumulation of extracellular matrix in the injured kidney. However, our current understanding of fibrosis is limited, therapeutic options are lacking, and progressive degradation of renal function prevails in CKD patients. Uncovering novel therapeutic targets is therefore necessary.
We have previously demonstrated reversal of renal fibrosis with losartan in experimental hypertensive nephropathy. Reversal was achieved provided that the drug was administered before late stages of nephropathy, thereby determining a non-return point of CKD progression. In the present study, to identify factors critically involved in the progression of renal fibrosis, we introduced losartan at the non-return point in L-NAME treated Sprague Dawley rats. Our results showed either reversal or progression of renal disease with losartan, defining 2 groups according to the opposite evolution of renal function. We took advantage of these experimental conditions to perform a transcriptomic screening to identify novel factors potentially implicated in the mechanisms of CKD progression. A secondary analysis of selected markers was thereafter performed. Among the targets identified, periostin, an extracellular matrix protein, presented a significant 3.3-fold higher mRNA expression in progression compared to reversal group. Furthermore, independent of blood pressure, periostin was strongly correlated with plasma creatinine, proteinuria and renal blood flow, hallmarks of hypertensive renal disease severity. Periostin staining was predominant in the injured regions, both in experimental hypertensive and human nephropathy.
These results identify periostin as a previously unrecognized marker associated with disease progression and regression in hypertensive nephropathy and suggest measuring periostin may be a sensitive tool to evaluate severity, progression and response to therapy in human kidney disease associated to hypertension.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a key regulator of angiogenesis – the growth of new microvessels from existing microvasculature. Angiogenesis is a complex process involving numerous molecular species, and to better understand it, a systems biology approach is necessary. In vivo preclinical experiments in the area of angiogenesis are typically performed in mouse models; this includes drug development targeting VEGF. Thus, to quantitatively interpret such experimental results, a computational model of VEGF distribution in the mouse can be beneficial. In this paper, we present an in silico model of VEGF distribution in mice, determine model parameters from existing experimental data, conduct sensitivity analysis, and test the validity of the model.
The multiscale model is comprised of two compartments: blood and tissue. The model accounts for interactions between two major VEGF isoforms (VEGF120 and VEGF164) and their endothelial cell receptors VEGFR-1, VEGFR-2, and co-receptor neuropilin-1. Neuropilin-1 is also expressed on the surface of parenchymal cells. The model includes transcapillary macromolecular permeability, lymphatic transport, and macromolecular plasma clearance. Simulations predict that the concentration of unbound VEGF in the tissue is approximately 50-fold greater than in the blood. These concentrations are highly dependent on the VEGF secretion rate. Parameter estimation was performed to fit the simulation results to available experimental data, and permitted the estimation of VEGF secretion rate in healthy tissue, which is difficult to measure experimentally. The model can provide quantitative interpretation of preclinical animal data and may be used in conjunction with experimental studies in the development of pro- and anti-angiogenic agents. The model approximates the normal tissue as skeletal muscle and includes endothelial cells to represent the vasculature. As the VEGF system becomes better characterized in other tissues and cell types, the model can be expanded to include additional compartments and vascular elements.
IL-1β and IL-18 are proinflammatory cytokines that contribute to renal immune complex disease, but whether IL-1β and IL-18 are mediators of intrinsic glomerular inflammation is unknown. In contrast to other cytokines the secretion of IL-1β and IL-18 requires a second stimulus that activates the inflammasome-ASC-caspase-1 pathway to cleave pro-IL-1β and -IL-18 into their mature and secretable forms. As the NLRP3 inflammasome and caspase-1 were shown to contribute to postischemic and postobstructive tubulointerstitial inflammation, we hypothesized a similar role for NLRP3, ASC, and caspase-1 in glomerular immunopathology. This concept was supported by the finding that lack of IL-1R1 reduced antiserum-induced focal segmental necrosis, crescent formation, and tubular atrophy when compared to wildtype mice. Lack of IL-18 reduced tubular atrophy only. However, NLRP3-, ASC- or caspase-1-deficiency had no significant effect on renal histopathology or proteinuria of serum nephritis. In vitro studies with mouse glomeruli or mesangial cells, glomerular endothelial cells, and podocytes did not reveal any pro-IL-1β induction upon LPS stimulation and no caspase-1 activation after an additional exposure to the NLRP3 agonist ATP. Only renal dendritic cells, which reside mainly in the tubulointerstitium, expressed pro-IL-1β and were able to activate the NLRP3-caspase-1 axis and secrete mature IL-1β. Together, the NLRP3-ASC-caspase-1 axis does not contribute to intrinsic glomerular inflammation via glomerular parenchymal cells as these cannot produce IL-1β during sterile inflammation.
Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors (PPARs) are a nuclear receptor family of ligand-inducible transcription factors, which have three different isoforms: PPARα, δ and γ. It has been demonstrated that PPARα and γ agonists have renoprotective effects in proteinuric kidney diseases; however, the role of PPARδ agonists in kidney diseases remains unclear. Thus, we examined the renoprotective effect of GW501516, a PPARδ agonist, in a protein-overload mouse nephropathy model and identified its molecular mechanism. Mice fed with a control diet or GW501516-containing diet were intraperitoneally injected with free fatty acid (FFA)-bound albumin or PBS(−). In the control group, protein overload caused tubular damages, macrophage infiltration and increased mRNA expression of MCP-1 and TNFα. These effects were prevented by GW501516 treatment. In proteinuric kidney diseases, excess exposure of proximal tubular cells to albumin, FFA bound to albumin or cytokines such as TNFα is detrimental. In vitro studies using cultured proximal tubular cells showed that GW501516 attenuated both TNFα- and FFA (palmitate)-induced, but not albumin-induced, MCP-1 expression via direct inhibition of the TGF-β activated kinase 1 (TAK1)-NFκB pathway, a common downstream signaling pathway to TNFα receptor and toll-like receptor-4. In conclusion, we demonstrate that GW501516 has an anti-inflammatory effect in renal tubular cells and may serve as a therapeutic candidate to attenuate tubulointerstitial lesions in proteinuric kidney diseases.
Laminin α5 is required for kidney glomerular basement membrane (GBM) assembly, and mice with targeted deletions of the Lama5 gene fail to form glomeruli. As a tool to begin to understand factors regulating the expression of the LAMA5 gene, we generated transgenic mice carrying the human LAMA5 locus in a bacterial artificial chromosome. These mice deposited human laminin α5 protein into basement membranes in heart, liver, spleen and kidney. Here, we characterized two lines of transgenics; Line 13 expressed ∼6 times more LAMA5 than Line 25. Mice from both lines were healthy, and kidney function and morphology were normal. Examination of developing glomeruli from fetal LAMA5 transgenics showed that the human transgene was expressed at the correct stage of glomerular development, and deposited into the nascent GBM simultaneously with mouse laminin α5. Expression of human LAMA5 did not affect the timing of the mouse laminin α1–α5 isoform switch, or that for mouse laminin β1–β2. Immunoelectron microscopy showed that human laminin α5 originated in both glomerular endothelial cells and podocytes, known to be origins for mouse laminin α5 normally. Notably, in neonatal transgenics expressing the highest levels of human LAMA5, there was a striking reduction of mouse laminin α5 protein in kidney basement membranes compared to wildtype, and significantly lower levels of mouse Lama5 mRNA. This suggests the presence in kidney of a laminin expression monitor, which may be important for regulating the overall production of basement membrane protein.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition of tubular epithelial cells, which is characterized by a loss of epithelial cell characteristics and a gain of ECM-producing myofibroblast characteristics, is an essential mechanism that is involved in tubulointerstitial fibrosis, an important component of the renal injury that is associated with diabetic nephropathy. Under diabetic conditions, p38 MAPK activation has been reported in glomeruli and mesangial cells; however, studies on p38 MAPK in TECs are lacking. In this study, the role of p38 MAPK in AP-1 activation and in the EMT in the human proximal tubular epithelial cell line (HK-2) under high glucose concentration conditions is investigated.
A vector for small interfering RNA that targets p38 MAPK was constructed; the cells were then either transfected with p38 siRNA or pretreated with a chemical inhibitor of AP-1 and incubated with low glucose plus TGF-β1 or high glucose for 48 h. Cells that were not transfected or pretreated and were exposed to low glucose with or without TGF-β1 or high glucose for 48 h were considered to be the controls. We found that high glucose induced an increase in TGF-β1. And high glucose-induced p38 MAPK activation was inhibited by p38 siRNA (P<0.05). A significant decline in E-cadherin and CK expression and a notable increase in vimentin and α-SMA were detected when exposed to low glucose with TGF-β1 or high glucose, and a significant raise of secreted fibronectin were detected when exposed to high glucose; whereas these changes were reversed when the cells were treated with p38 siRNA or AP-1 inhibitor (P<0.05). AP-1 activity levels and Snail expression were up-regulated under high glucose conditions but were markedly down-regulated through knockdown of p38 MAPK with p38 siRNA or pretreatment with AP-1 inhibitor (P<0.05).
This study suggests that p38 MAPK may play an important role in the high glucose-induced EMT by activating AP-1 in tubular epithelial cells.
In endothelial cells, activation of the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) has been linked with anti-inflammatory actions but the events downstream of kinase activation are not well understood. Here, we addressed the effects of AMPK activation/deletion on the activation of NFκB and determined whether the AMPK could contribute to the anti-inflammatory actions of nitric oxide (NO).
Overexpression of a dominant negative AMPKα2 mutant in tumor necrosis factor-α-stimulated human endothelial cells resulted in increased NFκB activity, E-selectin expression and monocyte adhesion. In endothelial cells from AMPKα2-/- mice the interleukin (IL)-1β induced expression of E-selectin was significantly increased. DETA-NO activated the AMPK and attenuated NFκB activation/E-selectin expression, effects not observed in human endothelial cells in the presence of the dominant negative AMPK, or in endothelial cells from AMPKα2-/- mice. Mechanistically, overexpression of constitutively active AMPK decreased the phosphorylation of IκB and p65, indicating a link between AMPK and the IκB kinase (IKK). Indeed, IKK (more specifically residues Ser177 and Ser181) was found to be a direct substrate of AMPKα2 in vitro. The hyper-phosphorylation of the IKK, which is known to result in its inhibition, was also apparent in endothelial cells from AMPKα2+/+ versus AMPKα2-/- mice.
These results demonstrate that the IKK is a direct substrate of AMPKα2 and that its phosphorylation on Ser177 and Ser181 results in the inhibition of the kinase and decreased NFκB activation. Moreover, as NO potently activates AMPK in endothelial cells, a portion of the anti-inflammatory effects of NO are mediated by AMPK.
Innate immune activation via IL-1R or Toll-like receptors (TLR) contibutes to acute kidney injury but its role in tissue remodeling during chronic kidney disease is unclear. SIGIRR is an inhibitor of TLR-induced cytokine and chemokine expression in intrarenal immune cells, therefore, we hypothesized that Sigirr-deficiency would aggravate postobstructive renal fibrosis. The expression of TLRs as well as endogenous TLR agonists increased within six days after UUO in obstructed compared to unobstructed kidneys while SIGIRR itself was downregulated by day 10. However, lack of SIGIRR did not affect the intrarenal mRNA expression of proinflammatory and profibrotic mediators as well as the numbers of intrarenal macrophages and T cells or morphometric markers of tubular atrophy and interstitial fibrosis. Because SIGIRR is known to block TLR/IL-1R signaling at the level of the intracellular adaptor molecule MyD88 UUO experiments were also performed in mice deficient for either MyD88, TLR2 or TLR9. After UUO there was no significant change of tubular interstitial damage and interstitial fibrosis in neither of these mice compared to wildtype counterparts. Additional in-vitro studies with CD90+ renal fibroblasts revealed that TLR agonists induce the expression of IL-6 and MCP-1/CCL2 but not of TGF-β, collagen-1α or smooth muscle actin. Together, postobstructive renal interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy develop independent of SIGIRR, TLR2, TLR9, and MyD88. These data argue against a significant role of these molecules in renal fibrosis.
Betaglycan is an accessory receptor for the transforming growth factor-β (TGFβ) superfamily, many members of which play key roles in kidney development. The purpose of this study was to define the role of this co-receptor on fetal murine kidney development. Stereological examination of embryonic and adult betaglycan heterozygous kidneys revealed augmented nephron number relative to littermate controls. Fetal heterozygous kidneys exhibited accelerated ureteric branching, which correlated with augmented nephron development at embryonic day (e) 15.5. In contrast, betaglycan null kidneys exhibited renal hypoplasia from e13.5 and reduced nephron number at e15.5. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis of e11.5–e14.5 kidneys demonstrated that heterozygous kidneys exhibited a transient decrease in Bmp4 expression at e11.5 and a subsequent cascade of changes in the gene regulatory network that governs metanephric development, including significant increases in Pax2, Eya1, Gdnf, Ret, Wnt4, and Wt1 expression. Conversely, gene expression in null kidneys was normal until e13.5, when significant reductions were detected in the expression of Bmp4 as well as other key metanephric regulatory genes. Tgfb1 and Tgfb2 mRNA expression was down-regulated in both nulls and heterozygotes at e13.5 and e14.5. The opposing morphological and molecular phenotypes in betaglycan heterozygote and null mutants demonstrate that the levels of betaglycan must be tightly regulated for optimal kidney development.
The tubule-interstitial fibrosis is the hallmark of progressive renal disease and is strongly associated with inflammation of this compartment. Heme-oxygenase-1 (HO-1) is a cytoprotective molecule that has been shown to be beneficial in various models of renal injury. However, the role of HO-1 in reversing an established renal scar has not yet been addressed.
We explored the ability of HO-1 to halt and reverse the establishment of fibrosis in an experimental model of chronic renal disease.
Sprague-Dawley male rats were subjected to unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) and divided into two groups: non-treated and Hemin-treated. To study the prevention of fibrosis, animals were pre-treated with Hemin at days -2 and -1 prior to UUO. To investigate whether HO-1 could reverse established fibrosis, Hemin therapy was given at days 6 and 7 post-surgery. After 7 and/or 14 days, animals were sacrificed and blood, urine and kidney tissue samples were collected for analyses. Renal function was determined by assessing the serum creatinine, inulin clearance, proteinuria/creatininuria ratio and extent of albuminuria. Arterial blood pressure was measured and fibrosis was quantified by Picrosirius staining. Gene and protein expression of pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic molecules, as well as HO-1 were performed.
Pre-treatment with Hemin upregulated HO-1 expression and significantly reduced proteinuria, albuminuria, inflammation and pro-fibrotic protein and gene expressions in animals subjected to UUO. Interestingly, the delayed treatment with Hemin was also able to reduce renal dysfunction and to decrease the expression of pro-inflammatory molecules, all in association with significantly reduced levels of fibrosis-related molecules and collagen deposition. Finally, TGF-β protein production was significantly lower in Hemin-treated animals.
Treatment with Hemin was able both to prevent the progression of fibrosis and to reverse an established renal scar. Modulation of inflammation appears to be the major mechanism behind HO-1 cytoprotection.
We have recently described that in an experimental model of atherosclerosis and in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) statins increased the activation of the Smad pathway by transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β), leading to an increase in TGF-β-dependent matrix accumulation and plaque stabilization. Angiotensin II (AngII) activates the Smad pathway and contributes to vascular fibrosis, although the in vivo contribution of TGF-β has not been completely elucidated. Our aim was to further investigate the mechanisms involved in AngII-induced Smad activation in the vasculature, and to clarify the beneficial effects of statins on AngII-induced vascular fibrosis. Infusion of AngII into rats for 3 days activates the Smad pathway and increases fibrotic-related factors, independently of TGF-β, in rat aorta. Treatment with atorvastatin or simvastatin inhibited AngII-induced Smad activation and related-fibrosis. In cultured rat VSMCs, direct AngII/Smad pathway activation was mediated by p38 MAPK and ROCK activation. Preincubation of VSMCs with statins inhibited AngII-induced Smad activation at all time points studied (from 20 minutes to 24 hours). All these data show that statins inhibited several AngII-activated intracellular signaling systems, including p38-MAPK and ROCK, which regulates the AngII/Smad pathway and related profibrotic factors and matrix proteins, independently of TGF-β responses. The inhibitory effect of statins on the AngII/Smad pathway could explain, at least in part, their beneficial effects on hypertension-induced vascular damage.
Mutations in the TRPC6 calcium channel (Transient receptor potential channel 6) gene have been associated with familiar forms of Focal and Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) affecting children and adults. In addition, acquired glomerular diseases are associated with increased expression levels of TRPC6. However, the exact role of TRPC6 in the pathogenesis of FSGS remains to be elucidated. In this work we describe the generation and phenotypic characterization of three different transgenic mouse lines with podocyte-specific overexpression of the wild type or any of two mutant forms of Trpc6 (P111Q and E896K) previously related to FSGS. Consistent with the human phenotype a non-nephrotic range of albuminuria was detectable in almost all transgenic lines. The histological analysis demonstrated that the transgenic mice developed a kidney disease similar to human FSGS. Differences of 2–3 folds in the presence of glomerular lesions were found between the non transgenic and transgenic mice expressing Trpc6 in its wild type or mutant forms specifically in podocytes. Electron microscopy of glomerulus from transgenic mice showed extensive podocyte foot process effacement. We conclude that overexpression of Trpc6 (wild type or mutated) in podocytes is sufficient to cause a kidney disease consistent with FSGS. Our results contribute to reinforce the central role of podocytes in the etiology of FSGS. These mice constitute an important new model in which to study future therapies and outcomes of this complex disease.