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1.  Long-Term Type 1 Diabetes Enhances In-Stent Restenosis after Aortic Stenting in Diabetes-Prone BB Rats 
Type 1 diabetic patients have increased risk of developing in-stent restenosis following endovascular stenting. Underlying pathogenetic mechanisms are not fully understood partly due to the lack of a relevant animal model to study the effect(s) of long-term autoimmune diabetes on development of in-stent restenosis. We here describe the development of in-stent restenosis in long-term (~7 months) spontaneously diabetic and age-matched, thymectomized, nondiabetic Diabetes Prone BioBreeding (BBDP) rats (n = 6-7 in each group). Diabetes was suboptimally treated with insulin and was characterized by significant hyperglycaemia, polyuria, proteinuria, and increased HbA1c levels. Stented abdominal aortas were harvested 28 days after stenting. Computerized morphometric analysis revealed significantly increased neointima formation in long-term diabetic rats compared with nondiabetic controls. In conclusion, long-term autoimmune diabetes in BBDP rats enhances in-stent restenosis. This model can be used to study the underlying pathogenetic mechanisms of diabetes-enhanced in-stent restenosis as well as to test new therapeutic modalities.
PMCID: PMC3038840  PMID: 21331346
2.  Distinct Differences on Neointima Formation in Immunodeficient and Humanized Mice after Carotid or Femoral Arterial Injury 
Scientific Reports  2016;6:35387.
Percutaneous coronary intervention is widely adopted to treat patients with coronary artery disease. However, restenosis remains an unsolved clinical problem after vascular interventions. The role of the systemic and local immune response in the development of restenosis is not fully understood. Hence, the aim of the current study was to investigate the role of the human immune system on subsequent neointima formation elicited by vascular injury in a humanized mouse model. Immunodeficient NOD.Cg-PrkdcscidIL2rgtm1Wjl(NSG) mice were reconstituted with human (h)PBMCs immediately after both carotid wire and femoral cuff injury were induced in order to identify how differences in the severity of injury influenced endothelial regeneration, neointima formation, and homing of human inflammatory and progenitor cells. In contrast to non-reconstituted mice, hPBMC reconstitution reduced neointima formation after femoral cuff injury whereas hPBMCs promoted neointima formation after carotid wire injury 4 weeks after induction of injury. Neointimal endothelium and smooth muscle cells in the injured arteries were of mouse origin. Our results indicate that the immune system may differentially respond to arterial injury depending on the severity of injury, which may also be influenced by the intrinsic properties of the arteries themselves, resulting in either minimal or aggravated neointima formation.
PMCID: PMC5069488  PMID: 27759053
3.  The role of hydrogen sulfide in aging and age-related pathologies 
Aging (Albany NY)  2016;8(10):2264-2289.
When humans grow older, they experience inevitable and progressive loss of physiological function, ultimately leading to death. Research on aging largely focuses on the identification of mechanisms involved in the aging process. Several proposed aging theories were recently combined as the ‘hallmarks of aging’. These hallmarks describe (patho-)physiological processes that together, when disrupted, determine the aging phenotype. Sustaining evidence shows a potential role for hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in the regulation of aging.
Nowadays, H2S is acknowledged as an endogenously produced signaling molecule with various (patho-) physiological effects. H2S is involved in several diseases including pathologies related to aging. In this review, the known, assumed and hypothetical effects of hydrogen sulfide on the aging process will be discussed by reviewing its actions on the hallmarks of aging and on several age-related pathologies.
PMCID: PMC5115888  PMID: 27683311
hydrogen sulfide; H2S; aging; hallmarks of aging; gasotransmitters
4.  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
5.  A roadmap for the genetic analysis of renal aging 
Aging Cell  2015;14(5):725-733.
Several studies show evidence for the genetic basis of renal disease, which renders some individuals more prone than others to accelerated renal aging. Studying the genetics of renal aging can help us to identify genes involved in this process and to unravel the underlying pathways. First, this opinion article will give an overview of the phenotypes that can be observed in age-related kidney disease. Accurate phenotyping is essential in performing genetic analysis. For kidney aging, this could include both functional and structural changes. Subsequently, this article reviews the studies that report on candidate genes associated with renal aging in humans and mice. Several loci or candidate genes have been found associated with kidney disease, but identification of the specific genetic variants involved has proven to be difficult. CUBN, UMOD, and SHROOM3 were identified by human GWAS as being associated with albuminuria, kidney function, and chronic kidney disease (CKD). These are promising examples of genes that could be involved in renal aging, and were further mechanistically evaluated in animal models. Eventually, we will provide approaches for performing genetic analysis. We should leverage the power of mouse models, as testing in humans is limited. Mouse and other animal models can be used to explain the underlying biological mechanisms of genes and loci identified by human GWAS. Furthermore, mouse models can be used to identify genetic variants associated with age-associated histological changes, of which Far2, Wisp2, and Esrrg are examples. A new outbred mouse population with high genetic diversity will facilitate the identification of genes associated with renal aging by enabling high-resolution genetic mapping while also allowing the control of environmental factors, and by enabling access to renal tissues at specific time points for histology, proteomics, and gene expression.
PMCID: PMC4568960  PMID: 26219736
aging; genetics; human; kidney; mouse; phenotype
6.  Precision-cut kidney slices (PCKS) to study development of renal fibrosis and efficacy of drug targeting ex vivo 
Disease Models & Mechanisms  2015;8(10):1227-1236.
Renal fibrosis is a serious clinical problem resulting in the greatest need for renal replacement therapy. No adequate preventive or curative therapy is available that could be clinically used to target renal fibrosis specifically. The search for new efficacious treatment strategies is therefore warranted. Although in vitro models using homogeneous cell populations have contributed to the understanding of the pathogenetic mechanisms involved in renal fibrosis, these models poorly mimic the complex in vivo milieu. Therefore, we here evaluated a precision-cut kidney slice (PCKS) model as a new, multicellular ex vivo model to study the development of fibrosis and its prevention using anti-fibrotic compounds. Precision-cut slices (200-300 μm thickness) were prepared from healthy C57BL/6 mouse kidneys using a Krumdieck tissue slicer. To induce changes mimicking the fibrotic process, slices were incubated with TGFβ1 (5 ng/ml) for 48 h in the presence or absence of the anti-fibrotic cytokine IFNγ (1 µg/ml) or an IFNγ conjugate targeted to PDGFRβ (PPB-PEG-IFNγ). Following culture, tissue viability (ATP-content) and expression of α-SMA, fibronectin, collagen I and collagen III were determined using real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry. Slices remained viable up to 72 h of incubation, and no significant effects of TGFβ1 and IFNγ on viability were observed. TGFβ1 markedly increased α-SMA, fibronectin and collagen I mRNA and protein expression levels. IFNγ and PPB-PEG-IFNγ significantly reduced TGFβ1-induced fibronectin, collagen I and collagen III mRNA expression, which was confirmed by immunohistochemistry. The PKCS model is a novel tool to test the pathophysiology of fibrosis and to screen the efficacy of anti-fibrotic drugs ex vivo in a multicellular and pro-fibrotic milieu. A major advantage of the slice model is that it can be used not only for animal but also for (fibrotic) human kidney tissue.
Drug Discovery Collection: TGFβ induces renal fibrosis in ex vivo cultured precision-cut kidney slices, which can be attenuated by IFNγ.
PMCID: PMC4610232  PMID: 26112172
Drug targeting; Fibrosis; Kidney; Tissue slices
7.  Genetic Analysis of Intracapillary Glomerular Lipoprotein Deposits in Aging Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(10):e111308.
Renal aging is characterized by functional and structural changes like decreased glomerular filtration rate, and glomerular, tubular and interstitial damage. To gain insight in pathways involved in renal aging, we studied aged mouse strains and used genetic analysis to identify genes associated with aging phenotypes.
Upon morphological screening in kidneys from 20-month-old mice from 26 inbred strains we noted intracapillary PAS-positive deposits. The severity of these deposits was quantified by scoring of a total of 50 glomeruli per section (grade 0–4). Electron microscopy and immunohistochemical staining for apoE, apoB, apoA-IV and perilipin-2 was performed to further characterize the lesions. To identify loci associated with these PAS-positive intracapillary glomerular deposits, we performed haplotype association mapping.
Six out of 26 mouse strains showed glomerular PAS-positive deposits. The severity of these deposits varied: NOD(0.97), NZW(0.41), NON(0.30), B10(0.21), C3 H(0.9) and C57BR(0.7). The intracapillary deposits were strongly positive for apoE and weakly positive for apoB and apoA-IV. Haplotype association mapping showed a strong association with a 30-Kb haplotype block on Chr 1 within the Esrrg gene. We investigated 1 Mb on each site of this region, which includes the genes Spata17, Gpatch2, Esrrg, Ush2a and Kctd3.
By analyzing 26 aged mouse strains we found that some strains developed an intracapillary PAS and apoE-positive lesion and identified a small haplotype block on Chr 1 within the Esrrg gene to be associated with these lipoprotein deposits. The region spanning this haplotype block contains the genes Spata17, Gpatch2, Esrrg, Ush2a and Kctd3, which are all highly expressed in the kidney. Esrrg might be involved in the evolvement of these glomerular deposits by influencing lipid metabolism and possibly immune reponses.
PMCID: PMC4213026  PMID: 25353171
8.  Identification of Novel Genes Associated with Renal Tertiary Lymphoid Organ Formation in Aging Mice 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e91850.
A hallmark of aging-related organ deterioration is a dysregulated immune response characterized by pathologic leukocyte infiltration of affected tissues. Mechanisms and genes involved are as yet unknown. To identify genes associated with aging-related renal infiltration, we analyzed kidneys from aged mice (≥20 strains) for infiltrating leukocytes followed by Haplotype Association Mapping (HAM) analysis. Immunohistochemistry revealed CD45+ cell clusters (predominantly T and B cells) in perivascular areas coinciding with PNAd+ high endothelial venules and podoplanin+ lymph vessels indicative of tertiary lymphoid organs. Cumulative cluster size increased with age (analyzed at 6, 12 and 20 months). Based on the presence or absence of clusters in male and female mice at 20 months, HAM analysis revealed significant associations with loci on Chr1, Chr2, Chr8 and Chr14 in male mice, and with loci on Chr4, Chr7, Chr13 and Chr14 in female mice. Wisp2 (Chr2) showed the strongest association (P = 5.00×10−137) in male mice; Ctnnbip1 (P = 6.42×10−267) and Tnfrsf8 (P = 5.42×10−245) (both on Chr4) showed the strongest association in female mice. Both Wisp2 and Ctnnbip1 are part of the Wnt-signaling pathway and the encoded proteins were expressed within the tertiary lymphoid organs. In conclusion, this study revealed differential lymphocytic infiltration and tertiary lymphoid organ formation in aged mouse kidneys across different inbred mouse strains. HAM analysis identified candidate genes involved in the Wnt-signaling pathway that may be causally linked to tertiary lymphoid organ formation.
PMCID: PMC3956762  PMID: 24637805
10.  Circulating alpha-klotho levels are not disturbed in patients with type 2 diabetes with and without macrovascular disease in the absence of nephropathy 
Diabetes is associated with a high incidence of macrovascular disease (MVD), including peripheral and coronary artery disease. Circulating soluble-Klotho (sKlotho) is produced in the kidney and is a putative anti-aging and vasculoprotective hormone. Reduced Klotho levels may therefore increase cardiovascular risk in diabetes. We investigated if sKlotho levels are decreased in type 2 diabetes and associate with MVD in the absence of diabetic nephropathy, and whether hyperglycemia affects renal Klotho production in vitro and in vivo.
sKlotho levels were determined with ELISA in diabetic and non-diabetic patients with and without MVD, and healthy control subjects. Human renal tubular epithelial cells (TECs) were isolated and exposed to high glucose levels (15 and 30 mM) in vitro and Klotho levels were measured with qPCR and quantitative immunofluorescence. Klotho mRNA expression was quantified in kidneys obtained from long term (3 and 8 months) diabetic Ins2Akita mice and normoglycemic control mice.
No significant differences in sKlotho levels were observed between diabetic patients with and without MVD (527 (433–704) pg/mL, n = 35), non-diabetic MVD patients (517 (349–571) pg/mL, n = 27), and healthy control subjects (435 (346–663) pg/mL, n = 15). High glucose (15 and 30 mM) did not alter Klotho expression in TECs. Long-term hyperglycemia in diabetic Ins2Akita mice (characterized by increased HbA1c levels [12.9 ± 0.3% (3 months) and 11.3 ± 2.0% (8 months)], p < 0.05 vs. non-diabetic mice) did not affect renal Klotho mRNA expression.
These data indicate that sKlotho levels are not affected in type 2 diabetes patients with and without MVD. Furthermore, hyperglycemia per se does not affect renal Klotho production. As type 2 diabetes does not alter sKlotho levels, sKlotho does not seem to play a major role in the pathogenesis of MVD in type 2 diabetes.
PMCID: PMC3765553  PMID: 23945089
Atherosclerosis; Coronary artery disease; Klotho; Macrovascular disease; Peripheral artery disease; Type 2 diabetes
11.  Gaseous Hydrogen Sulfide Protects against Myocardial Ischemia-Reperfusion Injury in Mice Partially Independent from Hypometabolism 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e63291.
Ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI) is a major cause of cardiac damage following various pathological processes. Gaseous hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is protective during IRI by inducing a hypometabolic state in mice which is associated with anti-apoptotic, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. We investigated whether gaseous H2S administration is protective in cardiac IRI and whether non-hypometabolic concentrations of H2S have similar protective properties.
Male C57BL/6 mice received a 0, 10, or 100 ppm H2S-N2 mixture starting 30 minutes prior to ischemia until 5 minutes pre-reperfusion. IRI was inflicted by temporary ligation of the left coronary artery for 30 minutes. High-resolution respirometry equipment was used to assess CO2-production and blood pressure was measured using internal transmitters. The effects of H2S were assessed by histological and molecular analysis.
Treatment with 100 ppm H2S decreased CO2-production by 72%, blood pressure by 14% and heart rate by 25%, while treatment with 10 ppm H2S had no effects. At day 1 of reperfusion 10 ppm H2S showed no effect on necrosis, while treatment with 100 ppm H2S reduced necrosis by 62% (p<0.05). Seven days post-reperfusion, both 10 ppm (p<0.01) and 100 ppm (p<0.05) H2S showed a reduction in fibrosis compared to IRI animals. Both 10 ppm and 100 ppm H2S reduced granulocyte-influx by 43% (p<0.05) and 60% (p<0.001), respectively. At 7 days post-reperfusion both 10 and 100 ppm H2S reduced expression of fibronectin by 63% (p<0.05) and 67% (p<0.01) and ANP by 84% and 63% (p<0.05), respectively.
Gaseous administration of H2S is protective when administered during a cardiac ischemic insult. Although hypometabolism is restricted to small animals, we now showed that low non-hypometabolic concentrations of H2S also have protective properties in IRI. Since IRI is a frequent cause of myocardial damage during percutaneous coronary intervention and cardiac transplantation, H2S treatment might lead to novel therapeutical modalities.
PMCID: PMC3651205  PMID: 23675473
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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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