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1.  Discoidin domain receptor-1 and periostin: new players in chronic kidney disease 
Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation  2015;30(12):1965-1971.
The incidence and prevalence of chronic kidney disease represents an important problem for public health. In renal diseases, the main histologic alterations derive from the development of renal fibrosis which results from the loss of the balance between pro- and anti-fibrotic factors. Tyrosine kinase receptors (RTKs) and matricellular proteins (MPs) are nowadays studied as potential modulators of renal injury. RTKs regulate cell cycle, migration, metabolism and cellular differentiation. Discoidin domain receptor-1 (DDR-1) is an RTK that has been extensively studied in cancer, and lung and renal diseases. It modulates inflammatory recruitment, extracellular matrix deposition and fibrosis; in renal diseases, it appears to act independently of the underlying disease. MPs regulate cell-matrix interactions and matrix accumulation, cellular adhesion and migration, and expression of inflammatory cells. Periostin is an MP, mainly studied in bone, heart, lung and cancer. Several studies demonstrated that it mediates cell-matrix interactions, migration of inflammatory cells and development of fibrosis. Recently, it has been reported in several nephropathies. In this review, we discuss the potential pathological roles of DDR-1 and periostin focussing on the kidney in both experimental models and human diseases.
PMCID: PMC4832988  PMID: 25829327
discoidin domain receptor-1; matricellular proteins; periostin; renal fibrosis; tyrosine kinase receptors
2.  Extracorporeal shock wave therapy does not improve hypertensive nephropathy 
Physiological Reports  2016;4(11):e12699.
Low‐energy extracorporeal shock wave therapy (SWT) has been shown to improve myocardial dysfunction, hind limb ischemia, erectile function, and to facilitate cell therapy and healing process. These therapeutic effects were mainly due to promoting angiogenesis. Since chronic kidney diseases are characterized by renal fibrosis and capillaries rarefaction, they may benefit from a proangiogenic treatment. The objective of our study was to determine whether SWT could ameliorate renal repair and favor angiogenesis in L‐NAME‐induced hypertensive nephropathy in rats. SWT was started when proteinuria exceeded 1 g/mmol of creatinine and 1 week after L‐NAME removal. SWT consisted of implying 0.09 mJ/mm2 (400 shots), 3 times per week. After 4 weeks of SWT, blood pressure, renal function and urinary protein excretion did not differ between treated (LN + SWT) and untreated rats (LN). Histological lesions including glomerulosclerosis and arteriolosclerosis scores, tubular dilatation and interstitial fibrosis were similar in both groups. In addition, peritubular capillaries and eNOS, VEGF, VEGF‐R, SDF‐1 gene expressions did not increase in SWT‐treated compared to untreated animals. No procedural complications or adverse effects were observed in control (C + SWT) and hypertensive rats (LN + SWT). These results suggest that extracorporeal kidney shock wave therapy does not induce angiogenesis and does not improve renal function and structure, at least in the model of hypertensive nephropathy although the treatment is well tolerated.
PMCID: PMC4908482  PMID: 27255359
Renal fibrosis; renal repair; angiogenesis; chronic kidney disease
3.  Whole-transcriptome analysis of UUO mouse model of renal fibrosis reveals new molecular players in kidney diseases 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:26235.
Transcriptome analysis by RNA-seq technology allows novel insights into gene expression and regulatory networks in health and disease. To better understand the molecular basis of renal fibrosis, we performed RNA-seq analysis in the Unilateral Ureteric Obstruction (UUO) mouse model. We analysed sham operated, 2- and 8-day post-ligation renal tissues. Thousands of genes with statistical significant changes in their expression were identified and classified into cellular processes and molecular pathways. Many novel protein-coding genes were identified, including critical transcription factors with important regulatory roles in other tissues and diseases. Emphasis was placed on long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), a class of molecular regulators of multiple and diverse cellular functions. Selected lncRNA genes were further studied and their transcriptional activity was confirmed. For three of them, their transcripts were also examined in other mouse models of nephropathies and their up- or down-regulation was found similar to the UUO model. In vitro experiments confirmed that one selected lncRNA is independent of TGFβ or IL1b stimulation but can influence the expression of fibrosis-related proteins and the cellular phenotype. These data provide new information about the involvement of protein-coding and lncRNA genes in nephropathies, which can become novel diagnostic and therapeutic targets in the near future.
PMCID: PMC4870569  PMID: 27189340
4.  Protective effects of genetic inhibition of Discoidin Domain Receptor 1 in experimental renal disease 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:21262.
Chronic kidney disease is a progressive incurable pathology affecting millions of people. Intensive investigations aim to identify targets for therapy. We have previously demonstrated that abnormal expression of the Discoidin Domain Receptor 1 (DDR1) is a key factor of renal disease by promoting inflammation and fibrosis. The present study investigates whether blocking the expression of DDR1 after the initiation of renal disease can delay or arrest the progression of this pathology. Severe renal disease was induced by either injecting nephrotoxic serum (NTS) or performing unilateral ureteral obstruction in mice, and the expression of DDR1 was inhibited by administering antisense oligodeoxynucleotides either at 4 or 8 days after NTS (corresponding to early or more established phases of disease, respectively), or at day 2 after ligation. DDR1 antisense administration at day 4 stopped the increase of proteinuria and protected animals against the progression of glomeruloneprhitis, as evidenced by functional, structural and cellular indexes. Antisense administration at day 8 delayed progression –but to a smaller degree- of renal disease. Similar beneficial effects on renal structure and inflammation were observed with the antisense administration of DDR1 after ureteral ligation. Thus, targeting DDR1 can be a promising strategy in the treatment of chronic kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC4754689  PMID: 26880216
5.  Matrix Metalloproteinase-2 Knockout and Heterozygote Mice Are Protected from Hydronephrosis and Kidney Fibrosis after Unilateral Ureteral Obstruction 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(12):e0143390.
Matrix Metalloproteinase-2 (Mmp2) is a collagenase known to be important in the development of renal fibrosis. In unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) the obstructed kidney (OK) develops fibrosis, while the contralateral (CL) does not. In this study we investigated the effect of UUO on gene expression, fibrosis and pelvic remodeling in the kidneys of Mmp2 deficient mice (Mmp2-/-), heterozygous animals (Mmp2+/-) and wild-type mice (Mmp2+/+). Sham operated animals served as controls (Cntrl). UUO was prepared under isoflurane anaesthesia, and the animals were sacrificed after one week. UUO caused hydronephrosis, dilation of renal tubules, loss of parenchymal thickness, and fibrosis. Damage was most severe in Mmp2+/+ mice, while both Mmp2-/- and Mmp2+/- groups showed considerably milder hydronephrosis, no tubular necrosis, and less tubular dilation. Picrosirius red quantification of fibrous collagen showed 1.63±0.25% positivity in OK and 0.29±0.11% in CL (p<0.05) of Mmp2+/+, Mmp2-/- OK and Mmp2-/- CL exhibited only 0.49±0.09% and 0.23±0.04% (p<0.05) positivity, respectively. Mmp2+/- OK and Mmp2+/- CL showed 0.43±0.09% and 0.22±0.06% (p<0.05) positivity, respectively. Transcriptomic analysis showed that 26 genes (out of 48 examined) were differentially expressed by ANOVA (p<0.05). 25 genes were upregulated in Mmp2+/+ OK compared to Mmp2+/+ CL: Adamts1, -2, Col1a1, -2, -3a1, -4a1, -5a1, -5a2, Dcn, Fbln1, -5, Fmod, Fn1, Itga2, Loxl1, Mgp, Mmp2, -3, Nid1, Pdgfb, Spp1, Tgfb1, Timp2, Trf, Vim. In Mmp2-/- and Mmp2+/- 18 and 12 genes were expressed differentially between OK and CL, respectively. Only Mmp2 was differentially regulated when comparing Mmp2-/- OK and Mmp2+/- OK. Under stress, it appears that Mmp2+/- OK responds with less Mmp2 upregulation than Mmp2+/+ OK, suggesting that there is a threshold level of Mmp2 necessary for damage and fibrosis to occur. In conclusion, reduced Mmp2 expression during UUO protects mice against hydronephrosis and renal fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC4687651  PMID: 26673451
6.  Searching novel diagnostic markers and targets for therapy of CKD 
Over the last decade, identification and characterization of novel markers of progression and targets for therapy of chronic kidney disease (CKD) have been challenging for the research community. Several promising candidates have emerged, mainly from experimental models of CKD that are yet to be investigated in clinical studies. The authors identified two candidate genes: periostin, an extracellular matrix protein involved in bone and dental development, and the discoidin domain receptor 1 (DDR1), a collagen-binding membrane receptor with tyrosine kinase activity. Both genes are inactive in adulthood under normal conditions but have been shown to be highly inducible following injury to glomerular or tubular epithelial cells. The objective of this review is to summarize recent evidence supporting the role of periostin and DDR1 as potential novel biomarkers and therapeutic targets in CKD.
PMCID: PMC4536973  PMID: 26312150
DDR1; periostin; renal inflammation and fibrosis
7.  Transgelin Up-Regulation in Obstructive Nephropathy 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e66887.
Fibrosis is a complex and multifactorial process, affecting the structure and compromising the function of several organs. Among those, renal fibrosis is an important pathological change, eventually leading to renal failure. Proteomic analysis of the renal parenchyma in the well-established rat model of unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO model) suggested that transgelin was up-regulated during the development of fibrosis. Transgelin up-regulation was confirmed both at the protein and at the mRNA level. It was observed that at early stages of fibrosis transgelin was mainly expressed in the interstitial compartment and, more specifically, in cells surrounding the glomeruli. Subsequently, it was confirmed that transgelin expressing cells were activated fibroblasts, based on their extensive co-expression of α-SMA and their complete lack of co-distribution with markers of other cell types (endothelial, epithelial and cells of the immune system). These periglomerular fibroblasts exhibited staining for transgelin mainly cytoplasmic but occasionally nuclear as well. In addition, transgelin expression in periglomerular fibroblasts was absent in renal fibrosis developed in a hypertensive model, compared to the UUO model. Promoter analysis indicated that there are several conserved motifs for transcription factor binding. Among those, Kruppel-like factor 6 was found to be up-regulated in transgelin positive periglomerular activated fibroblasts, suggesting a possible involvement in the mechanism of transgelin up-regulation. These data strongly suggest that transgelin is up-regulated in the obstructive nephropathy and could be used as a novel marker for renal fibrosis in the future.
PMCID: PMC3694161  PMID: 23840546
8.  The RenTg Mice: A Powerful Tool to Study Renin-Dependent Chronic Kidney Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52362.
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.
Methodology/Principal Findings
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.
PMCID: PMC3530557  PMID: 23300650
9.  Progression of renal fibrosis: the underestimated role of endothelial alterations 
Fibrogenesis & Tissue Repair  2012;5(Suppl 1):S15.
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.
PMCID: PMC3368764  PMID: 23259724
10.  Aldosterone Inhibits the Fetal Program and Increases Hypertrophy in the Heart of Hypertensive Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38197.
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.
Methodology/Principal Findings
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.
PMCID: PMC3364229  PMID: 22666483
11.  Identification of Periostin as a Critical Marker of Progression/Reversal of Hypertensive Nephropathy 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e31974.
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.
PMCID: PMC3293874  PMID: 22403621
12.  Restoration of Podocyte Structure and Improvement of Chronic Renal Disease in Transgenic Mice Overexpressing Renin 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6721.
Proteinuria is a major marker of the decline of renal function and an important risk factor of coronary heart disease. Elevated proteinuria is associated to the disruption of slit-diaphragm and loss of podocyte foot processes, structural alterations that are considered irreversible. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether proteinuria can be reversed and to identify the structural modifications and the gene/protein regulation associated to this reversal.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We used a novel transgenic strain of mouse (RenTg) that overexpresses renin at a constant high level. At the age of 12-month, RenTg mice showed established lesions typical of chronic renal disease such as peri-vascular and periglomerular inflammation, glomerular ischemia, glomerulosclerosis, mesangial expansion and tubular dilation. Ultrastructural analysis indicated abnormal heterogeneity of basement membrane thickness and disappearance of podocyte foot processes. These structural alterations were accompanied by decreased expressions of proteins specific of podocyte (nephrin, podocin), or tubular epithelial cell (E-cadherin and megalin) integrity. In addition, since TGFβ is considered the major pro-fibrotic agent in renal disease and since exogenous administration of BMP7 is reported to antagonize the TGFβ-induced phenotype changes in kidney, we have screened the expressions of several genes belonging in the TGFβ/BMP superfamily. We found that the endogenous inhibitors of BMPs such as noggin and Usag-1 were several-fold activated inhibiting the action of BMPs and thus reinforcing the deleterious action of TGFβ.Treatment with an AT1 receptor antagonist, at dose that did not decrease arterial pressure, gradually reduced albuminuria. This decrease was accompanied by re-expression of podocin, nephrin, E-cadherin and megalin, and reappearance of podocyte foot processes. In addition, expressions of noggin and Usag-1 were markedly decreased, permitting thus activation of the beneficial action of BMPs.
These findings show that proteinuria and alterations in the expression of proteins involved in the integrity and function of glomerular and renal epithelial phenotype are reversible events when the local action of angiotensin II is blocked, and provide hope that chronic renal disease can be efficiently treated.
PMCID: PMC2725297  PMID: 19696925

Results 1-12 (12)