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1.  Differential Effects of Long Term FTY720 Treatment on Endothelial versus Smooth Muscle Cell Signaling to S1P in Rat Mesenteric Arteries 
PLoS ONE  2016;11(9):e0162029.
The sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P) analog FTY720 exerts pleiotropic effects on the cardiovascular system and causes down-regulation of S1P receptors. Myogenic constriction is an important mechanism regulating resistance vessel function and is known to be modulated by S1P. Here we investigated myogenic constriction and vascular function of mesenteric arteries of rats chronically treated with FTY720. Wistar rats received FTY720 1mg/kg/daily for six weeks. At termination, blood pressure was recorded and small mesenteric arteries collected for vascular studies in a perfusion set up. Myogenic constriction to increased intraluminal pressure was low, but a sub-threshold dose of S1P profoundly augmented myogenic constriction in arteries of both controls and animals chronically treated with FTY720. Interestingly, endothelial denudation blocked the response to S1P in arteries of FTY720-treated animals, but not in control rats. In acute experiments, presence of FTY720 significantly augmented the contractile response to S1P, an effect that was partially abolished after the inhibition of cyclooxygenase (COX-)-derived prostaglandins. FTY720 down regulated S1P1 but not S1P2 in renal resistance arteries and in cultured human endothelial cells. This study therefore demonstrates the endothelium is able to compensate for the complete loss of responsiveness of the smooth muscle layer to S1P after long term FTY720 treatment through a mechanism that most likely involves enhanced production of contractile prostaglandins by the endothelium.
PMCID: PMC5008781  PMID: 27583547
2.  Toll-Like Receptor Family Polymorphisms Are Associated with Primary Renal Diseases but Not with Renal Outcomes Following Kidney Transplantation 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(10):e0139769.
Toll-like receptors (TLRs) play a crucial role in innate- and adaptive immunity. The TLR pathways were shown to play key functional roles in experimental acute and chronic kidney injury, including the allo-immune response after experimental renal transplantation. Data about the precise impact of TLRs and their negative regulators on human renal transplant outcomes however are limited and contradictory. We studied twelve non-synonymous single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) of which eleven in TLR1-8 and one in SIGIRR in a final cohort comprising 1116 matching donors and recipients. TLR3 p.Leu412Phe and SIGIRR p.Gln312Arg significantly deviated from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium and were excluded. The frequency distribution of the minor alleles of the remaining 10 TLR variants were compared between patients with end-stage renal disease (recipients) and controls (kidney donors) in a case-control study. Secondly, the associations between the minor allele frequency of the TLR variants and delayed graft function, biopsy-proven acute rejection and death-censored graft failure after transplantation were investigated with Cox regression. Carrier frequencies of the minor alleles of TLR1 p.His305Leu (OR = 4.79, 95% CI = 2.35–9.75, P = 0.0002), TLR1 p.Asn248Ser (OR = 1.26, 95% CI = 1.07–1.47, P = 0.04) and TLR8 p.Met1Val (OR = 1.37, 95% CI = 1.14–1.64, P = 0.008) were significantly higher in patients with ESRD, with little specificity for the underlying renal disease entity (adjusted for age, gender and donor-recipient relatedness). The minor allele frequency of none of the TLR variants significantly associated with the surrogate and definite outcomes, even when multivariable models were created that could account for TLR gene redundancy. In conclusion, genetic variants in TLR genes were associated with the prevalence of ESRD but not renal transplant outcomes. Therefore, our data suggests that specific TLR signaling routes might play a role in the final common pathway of primary renal injury. A role for TLR signaling in the context of renal transplantation is probably limited.
PMCID: PMC4596574  PMID: 26445497
3.  Targeting tubulointerstitial remodeling in proteinuric nephropathy in rats 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2015;8(8):919-930.
Proteinuria is an important cause of tubulointerstitial damage. Anti-proteinuric interventions are not always successful, and residual proteinuria often leads to renal failure. This indicates the need for additional treatment modalities by targeting the harmful downstream consequences of proteinuria. We previously showed that proteinuria triggers renal lymphangiogenesis before the onset of interstitial inflammation and fibrosis. However, the interrelationship of these interstitial events in proteinuria is not yet clear. To this end, we specifically blocked lymphangiogenesis (anti-VEGFR3 antibody), monocyte/macrophage influx (clodronate liposomes) or lymphocyte and myofibroblast influx (S1P agonist FTY720) separately in a rat model to investigate the role and the possible interaction of each of these phenomena in tubulointerstitial remodeling in proteinuric nephropathy. Proteinuria was induced in 3-month old male Wistar rats by adriamycin injection. After 6 weeks, when proteinuria has developed, rats were treated for another 6 weeks by anti-VEGFR3 antibody, clodronate liposomes or FTY720 up to week 12. In proteinuric rats, lymphangiogenesis, influx of macrophages, T cells and myofibroblasts, and collagen III deposition and interstitial fibrosis significantly increased at week 12 vs week 6. Anti-VEGFR3 antibody prevented lymphangiogenesis in proteinuric rats, however, without significant effects on inflammatory and fibrotic markers or proteinuria. Clodronate liposomes inhibited macrophage influx and partly reduced myofibroblast expression; however, neither significantly prevented the development of lymphangiogenesis, nor fibrotic markers and proteinuria. FTY720 prevented myofibroblast accumulation, T-cell influx and interstitial fibrosis, and partially reduced macrophage number and proteinuria; however, it did not significantly influence lymphangiogenesis and collagen III deposition. This study showed that proteinuria-induced interstitial fibrosis cannot be halted by blocking lymphangiogenesis or the influx of macrophages. On the other hand, FTY720 treatment did prevent T-cell influx, myofibroblast accumulation and interstitial fibrosis, but not renal lymphangiogenesis and proteinuria. We conclude that tubulointerstitial fibrosis and inflammation are separate from lymphangiogenesis, at least under proteinuric conditions.
Summary: Targeting lymphangiogenesis, inflammation or fibrosis separately in a rat model of proteinuric nephropathy showed that treating any of these changes alone is not effective in treating the disease.
PMCID: PMC4527281  PMID: 26035383
Proteinuria; Renal lymphatic; Lymphangiogenesis; Renal fibrosis; Renal inflammation
4.  Incomplete Restoration of Angiotensin II - Induced Renal Extracellular Matrix Deposition and Inflammation Despite Complete Functional Recovery in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(6):e0129732.
Some diseases associated with a temporary deterioration in kidney function and/or development of proteinuria show an apparently complete functional remission once the initiating trigger is removed. While it was earlier thought that a transient impairment of kidney function is harmless, accumulating evidence now suggests that these patients are more prone to developing renal failure later in life. We therefore sought to investigate to what extent renal functional changes, inflammation and collagen deposition are reversible after cessation of disease induction, potentially explaining residual sensitivity to damage. Using a rat model of Angiotensin II (Ang II)-induced hypertensive renal disease we show the development of severe hypertension (212 ± 10.43 vs. 146 ± 1.4 mmHg, p<0.001) and proteinuria (51.4 ± 6.3 vs. 14.7 ± 2.0 mg/24h, p<0.01) with declined creatinine clearance (2.0 ± 0.5 vs. 4.9 ± 0.6 mL/min, p<0.001) to occur after 3 weeks of Ang II infusion. At the structural level, Ang II infusion resulted in interstitial inflammation (18.8 ± 4.8 vs. 3.6 ± 0.5 number of macrophages, p<0.001), renal interstitial collagen deposition and lymphangiogenesis (4.1 ± 0.4 vs. 2.2 ± 0.4 number of lymph vessels, p<0.01). Eight weeks after cessation of Ang II, all clinical parameters, pre-fibrotic changes such as myofibroblast transformation and increase in lymph vessel number (lymphangiogenesis) returned to control values. However, glomerular desmin expression, glomerular and periglomerular macrophages and interstitial collagens remained elevated. These dormant abnormalities indicate that after transient renal function decline, inflammation and collagen deposition may persist despite normalization of the initiating pathophysiological stimulus perhaps rendering the kidney more vulnerable to further damage.
PMCID: PMC4464893  PMID: 26061812
5.  Basement Membrane Zone Collagens XV and XVIII/Proteoglycans Mediate Leukocyte Influx in Renal Ischemia/Reperfusion 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106732.
Collagen type XV and XVIII are proteoglycans found in the basement membrane zones of endothelial and epithelial cells, and known for their cryptic anti-angiogenic domains named restin and endostatin, respectively. Mutations or deletions of these collagens are associated with eye, muscle and microvessel phenotypes. We now describe a novel role for these collagens, namely a supportive role in leukocyte recruitment. We subjected mice deficient in collagen XV or collagen XVIII, and their compound mutant, as well as the wild-type control mice to bilateral renal ischemia/reperfusion, and evaluated renal function, tubular injury, and neutrophil and macrophage influx at different time points after ischemia/reperfusion. Five days after ischemia/reperfusion, the collagen XV, collagen XVIII and the compound mutant mice showed diminished serum urea levels compared to wild-type mice (all p<0.05). Histology showed reduced tubular damage, and decreased inflammatory cell influx in all mutant mice, which were more pronounced in the compound mutant despite increased expression of MCP-1 and TNF-α in double mutant mice compared to wildtype mice. Both type XV and type XVIII collagen bear glycosaminoglycan side chains and an in vitro approach with recombinant collagen XVIII fragments with variable glycanation indicated a role for these side chains in leukocyte migration. Thus, basement membrane zone collagen/proteoglycan hybrids facilitate leukocyte influx and tubular damage after renal ischemia/reperfusion and might be potential intervention targets for the reduction of inflammation in this condition.
PMCID: PMC4154753  PMID: 25188209
6.  A Peritoneal Dialysis Regimen Low in Glucose and Glucose Degradation Products Results in Increased Cancer Antigen 125 and Peritoneal Activation 
♦ Background: Glucose and glucose degradation products (GDPs) in peritoneal dialysis fluids (PDFs) are both thought to mediate progressive peritoneal worsening.
♦ Methods: In a multicenter, prospective, randomized crossover study, incident continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis patients were treated either with conventional lactate-buffered PDF (sPD regimen) or with a regimen low in glucose and GDPs: Nutrineal×1, Extraneal×1, and Physioneal×2 (NEPP regimen; all solutions: Baxter Healthcare, Utrecht, Netherlands). After 6 months, patients were switched to the alternative regimen for another 6 months. After 6 weeks of run-in, before the switch, and at the end of the study, 4-hour peritoneal equilibration tests were performed, and overnight effluents were analyzed for cells and biomarkers. Differences between the regimens were assessed by multivariate analysis corrected for time and regimen sequence.
♦ Results: The 45 patients who completed the study were equally distributed over both groups. During NEPP treatment, D4/D0 glucose was lower (p < 0.01) and D/P creatinine was higher (p = 0.04). In NEPP overnight effluent, mesothelial cells (p < 0.0001), cancer antigen 125 (p < 0.0001), hyaluronan (p < 0.0001), leukocytes (p < 0.001), interleukins 6 (p = 0.001) and 8 (p = 0.0001), and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF, p < 0.0001) were increased by a factor of 2 – 3 compared with levels in sPD effluent. The NEPP regimen was associated with higher transport parameters, but that association disappeared after the addition of VEGF to the model. The association between NEPP and higher effluent levels of VEGF could not be attributed to glucose and GDP loads.
♦ Conclusions: Study results indicate preservation of the mesothelium and increased peritoneal activation during NEPP treatment. Whether the increase in VEGF reflects an increase in mesothelial cell mass or whether it points to another, undesirable mechanism cannot be determined from the present study. Longitudinal studies are needed to finally evaluate the usefulness of the NEPP regimen for further clinical use.
PMCID: PMC3525441  PMID: 22045100
Biocompatibility; CA125; CAPD; clinical trial; glucose; glucose degradation products; mesothelial regeneration; icodextrin; amino acids
7.  Urinary Vitamin D Binding Protein: A Potential Novel Marker of Renal Interstitial Inflammation and Fibrosis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(2):e55887.
Non-invasive tubulointerstitial damage markers may allow better titration and monitoring of renoprotective therapy. We investigated the value of urinary vitamin D binding protein excretion (uVDBP) as a tubulointerstitial inflammation and fibrosis marker in adriamycin rats, and tested whether uVDBP parallels renal damage and responds to therapy intensification in humans. In adriamycin (ADR) rats, uVDBP was strongly elevated vs controls (CON) already 6 wks after nephrosis induction (ADR: 727±674 [mean±SD] vs CON: 9±12 µg/d, p<0.01), i.e. before onset of pre-fibrotic and inflammatory tubulointerstitial damage, and at all following 6-wk time points until end of follow up at 30 wks (ADR: 1403±1026 vs CON: 206±132 µg/d, p<0.01). In multivariate regression analysis, uVDBP was associated with tubulointerstitial macrophage accumulation (standardized beta = 0.47, p = 0.01) and collagen III expression (standardized beta = 0.44, p = 0.02) independently of albuminuria. In humans, uVDBP was increased in 100 microalbuminuric subjects (44±93 µg/d) and in 47 CKD patients with overt proteinuria (9.2±13.0 mg/d) compared to 100 normoalbuminuric subjects (12±12 µg/d, p<0.001). In CKD patients, uVDBP responded to intensification of renoprotective therapy (ACEi+liberal sodium: 9.2±13.0 mg/d vs dual RAAS blockade+low sodium: 2747±4013, p<0.001), but remained still >100-fold increased during maximal therapy vs normoalbuminurics (p<0.001), consistent with persisting tubulointerstitial damage. UVDBP was associated with tubular and inflammatory damage markers KIM-1 (standardized beta = 0.52, p<0.001), beta-2-microglobuline (st.beta = 0.45, p<0.001), cystatin C (st.beta = 0.40, p<0.001), MCP-1 (st.beta = 0.31, p<0.001) and NGAL (st.beta = 0.20, p = 0.005), independently of albuminuria. UVDBP may be a novel urinary biomarker of tubulointerstitial damage. Prospectively designed studies are required to validate our findings and confirm its relevance in the clinical setting.
PMCID: PMC3569442  PMID: 23409077
8.  Proteinuria Triggers Renal Lymphangiogenesis Prior to the Development of Interstitial Fibrosis 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(11):e50209.
Proteinuria is an important cause of progressive tubulo-interstitial damage. Whether proteinuria could trigger a renal lymphangiogenic response has not been established. Moreover, the temporal relationship between development of fibrosis, inflammation and lymphangiogenesis in chronic progressive kidney disease is not clear yet. Therefore, we evaluated the time course of lymph vessel (LV) formation in relation to proteinuria and interstitial damage in a rat model of chronic unilateral adriamycin nephrosis. Proteinuria and kidneys were evaluated up to 30 weeks after induction of nephrosis. LVs were identified by podoplanin/VEGFR3 double staining. After 6 weeks proteinuria was well-established, without influx of interstitial macrophages and myofibroblasts, collagen deposition, osteopontin expression (tubular activation) or LV formation. At 12 weeks, a ∼3-fold increase in cortical LV density was found (p<0.001), gradually increasing over time. This corresponded with a significant increase in tubular osteopontin expression (p<0.01) and interstitial myofibroblast numbers (p<0.05), whereas collagen deposition and macrophage numbers were not yet increased. VEGF-C was mostly expressed by tubular cells rather than interstitial cells. Cultured tubular cells stimulated with FCS showed a dose-dependent increase in mRNA and protein expression of VEGF-C which was not observed by human albumin stimulation. We conclude that chronic proteinuria provoked lymphangiogenesis in temporal conjunction with tubular osteopontin expression and influx of myofibroblasts, that preceded interstitial fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC3506584  PMID: 23189189
9.  UMOD as a susceptibility gene for end-stage renal disease 
BMC Medical Genetics  2012;13:78.
In recent genetic association studies, common variants including rs12917707 in the UMOD locus have shown strong evidence of association with eGFR, prevalent and incident chronic kidney disease and uromodulin urinary concentration in general population cohorts. The association of rs12917707 with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) in a recent case-control study was only nominally significant.
To investigate whether rs12917707 associates with ESRD, graft failure (GF) and urinary uromodulin levels in an independent cohort, we genotyped 1142 ESRD patients receiving a renal transplantation and 1184 kidney donors as controls. After transplantation, 1066 renal transplant recipients were followed up for GF. Urinary uromodulin concentration was measured at median [IQR] 4.2 [2.2-6.1] yrs after kidney transplantation.
The rs12917707 minor allele showed association with lower risk of ESRD (OR 0.89 [0.76-1.03], p = 0.04) consistent in effect size and direction with the previous report (Böger et al, PLoS Genet 2011). Meta-analysis of these findings showed significant association of rs12917707 with ESRD (OR 0.91 [0.85-98], p = 0.008). In contrast, rs12917707 was not associated with incidence of GF. Urinary uromodulin concentration was lower in recipients-carriers of the donor rs12917707 minor allele as compared to non-carriers, again consistent with previous observations in general population cohorts.
Our study thus corroborates earlier evidence and independently confirms the association between UMOD and ESRD.
PMCID: PMC3495046  PMID: 22947327
UMOD; Uromodulin; Polymorphisms; SNP; End-stage renal disease; Kidney transplantation
10.  CUBN as a Novel Locus for End-Stage Renal Disease: Insights from Renal Transplantation 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36512.
Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is a complex disorder. As genome-wide association studies identified cubilin gene CUBN as a locus for albuminuria, and urinary protein loss is a risk factor for progressive CKD, we tested the hypothesis that common genetic variants in CUBN are associated with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and proteinuria. First, a total of 1142 patients with ESRD, admitted for renal transplantation, and 1186 donors were genotyped for SNPs rs7918972 and rs1801239 (case-control study). The rs7918972 minor allele frequency (MAF) was higher in ESRD patients comparing to kidney donors, implicating an increased risk for ESRD (OR 1.39, p = 0.0004) in native kidneys. Second, after transplantation recipients were followed for 5.8 [3.8–9.2] years (longitudinal study) documenting ESRD in transplanted kidneys – graft failure (GF). During post-transplant follow-up 92 (9.6%) cases of death-censored GF occurred. Donor rs7918972 MAF, representing genotype of the transplanted kidney, was 16.3% in GF vs 10.7% in cases with functioning graft. Consistently, a multivariate Cox regression analysis showed that donor rs7918972 is a predictor of GF, although statistical significance was not reached (HR 1.53, p = 0.055). There was no association of recipient rs7918972 with GF. Rs1801239 was not associated with ESRD or GF. In line with an association with the outcome, donor rs7918972 was associated with elevated proteinuria levels cross-sectionally at 1 year after transplantation. Thus, we identified CUBN rs7918972 as a novel risk variant for renal function loss in two independent settings: ESRD in native kidneys and GF in transplanted kidneys.
PMCID: PMC3344899  PMID: 22574174
11.  N-Glycosylation of Carnosinase Influences Protein Secretion and Enzyme Activity 
Diabetes  2010;59(8):1984-1990.
The (CTG)n polymorphism in the serum carnosinase (CN-1) gene affects CN-1 secretion. Since CN-1 is heavily glycosylated and glycosylation might influence protein secretion as well, we tested the role of N-glycosylation for CN-1 secretion and enzyme activity. We also tested whether CN-1 secretion is changed under hyperglycemic conditions.
N-glycosylation of CN-1 was either inhibited by tunicamycin in pCSII-CN-1–transfected Cos-7 cells or by stepwise deletion of its three putative N-glycosylation sites. CN-1 protein expression, N-glycosylation, and enzyme activity were assessed in cell extracts and supernatants. The influence of hyperglycemia on CN-1 enzyme activity in human serum was tested in homozygous (CTG)5 diabetic patients and healthy control subjects.
Tunicamycin completely inhibited CN-1 secretion. Deletion of all N-glycosylation sites was required to reduce CN-1 secretion efficiency. Enzyme activity was already diminished when two sites were deleted. In pCSII-CN-1–transfected Cos-7 cells cultured in medium containing 25 mmol/l d-glucose, the immature 61 kilodaltons (kDa) CN-1 immune reactive band was not detected. This was paralleled by an increased GlcNAc expression in cell lysates and CN-1 expression in the supernatants. Homozygous (CTG)5 diabetic patients had significantly higher serum CN-1 activity compared with genotype-matched, healthy control subjects.
We conclude that apart from the (CTG)n polymorphism in the signal peptide of CN-1, N-glycosylation is essential for appropriate secretion and enzyme activity. Since hyperglycemia enhances CN-1 secretion and enzyme activity, our data suggest that poor blood glucose control in diabetic patients might result in an increased CN-1 secretion even in the presence of the (CTG)5 allele.
PMCID: PMC2911063  PMID: 20460427
12.  Differential Expression of Proteoglycans in Tissue Remodeling and Lymphangiogenesis after Experimental Renal Transplantation in Rats 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(2):e9095.
Chronic transplant dysfunction explains the majority of late renal allograft loss and is accompanied by extensive tissue remodeling leading to transplant vasculopathy, glomerulosclerosis and interstitial fibrosis. Matrix proteoglycans mediate cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions and play key roles in tissue remodeling. The aim of this study was to characterize differential heparan sulfate proteoglycan and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan expression in transplant vasculopathy, glomerulosclerosis and interstitial fibrosis in renal allografts with chronic transplant dysfunction.
Renal allografts were transplanted in the Dark Agouti-to-Wistar Furth rat strain combination. Dark Agouti-to-Dark Agouti isografts and non-transplanted Dark Agouti kidneys served as controls. Allograft and isograft recipients were sacrificed 66 and 81 days (mean) after transplantation, respectively. Heparan sulfate proteoglycan (collXVIII, perlecan and agrin) and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan (versican) expression, as well as CD31 and LYVE-1 (vascular and lymphatic endothelium, respectively) expression were (semi-) quantitatively analyzed using immunofluorescence.
Arteries with transplant vasculopathy and sclerotic glomeruli in allografts displayed pronounced neo-expression of collXVIII and perlecan. In contrast, in interstitial fibrosis expression of the chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan versican dominated. In the cortical tubular basement membranes in both iso- and allografts, induction of collXVIII was detected. Allografts presented extensive lymphangiogenesis (p<0.01 compared to isografts and non-transplanted controls), which was associated with induced perlecan expression underneath the lymphatic endothelium (p<0.05 and p<0.01 compared to isografts and non-transplanted controls, respectively). Both the magnitude of lymphangiogenesis and perlecan expression correlated with severity of interstitial fibrosis and impaired graft function.
Our results reveal that changes in the extent of expression and the type of proteoglycans being expressed are tightly associated with tissue remodeling after renal transplantation. Therefore, proteoglycans might be potential targets for clinical intervention in renal chronic transplant dysfunction.
PMCID: PMC2816722  PMID: 20140097

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