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1.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0066887
PMCID: PMC3694161  PMID: 23840546
2.  The RenTg Mice: A Powerful Tool to Study Renin-Dependent Chronic Kidney Disease 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e52362.
Background
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.
Conclusions/Significance
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0052362
PMCID: PMC3530557  PMID: 23300650
3.  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.
doi:10.1186/1755-1536-5-S1-S15
PMCID: PMC3368764  PMID: 23259724
4.  Aldosterone Inhibits the Fetal Program and Increases Hypertrophy in the Heart of Hypertensive Mice 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e38197.
Background
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.
Conclusions/Significance
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0038197
PMCID: PMC3364229  PMID: 22666483
5.  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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031974
PMCID: PMC3293874  PMID: 22403621
6.  Restoration of Podocyte Structure and Improvement of Chronic Renal Disease in Transgenic Mice Overexpressing Renin 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(8):e6721.
Background
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.
Conclusions/Significance
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.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0006721
PMCID: PMC2725297  PMID: 19696925

Results 1-6 (6)