The nuclear factor-?B (NF-?B) is an important regulator of the inflammatory response. Angiotensin II (Ang II) activates the NF-?B pathway linked to renal inflammation. Although both AT1 and AT2 receptors are involved in Ang II-mediated NF-?B activation, the biological processes mediated by each receptor are not fully characterized. Interleukin-1? (IL-1?) is an important macrophage-derived cytokine that regulates immune and inflammatory processes, activating intracellular pathways shared with Ang II, including the NF-?B.
The classical view of the immune system has changed by the discovery of novel T-helper (Th) subsets, including Th17 (IL-17A-producing cells). IL-17A participates in immune-mediated glomerulonephritis and more recently in inflammatory pathologies, including experimental renal injury. Peritoneal dialysis patients present chronic inflammation and Th1/Th2 imbalance, but the role of the Th17 response in peritoneal membrane damage has not been investigated. In peritoneal biopsies from dialyzed patients, IL-17A immunostaining was found mainly in inflammatory areas and was absent in the healthy peritoneum. IL-17A-expressing cells included lymphocytes (CD4+ and ??), neutrophils, and mast cells. Elevated IL-17A effluent concentrations were found in long-term peritoneal dialysis patients. Studies in mice showed that repeated exposure to recombinant IL-17A caused peritoneal inflammation and fibrosis. Moreover, chronic exposure to dialysis fluids resulted in a peritoneal Th17 response, including elevated IL-17A gene and protein production, submesothelial cell infiltration of IL-17A-expressing cells, and upregulation of Th17 differentiation factors and cytokines. IL-17A neutralization diminished experimental peritoneal inflammation and fibrosis caused by chronic exposure to dialysis fluids in mice. Thus, IL-17A is a key player of peritoneum damage and it may be a good candidate for therapeutic intervention in peritoneal dialysis patients.
ILK (integrin-linked kinase) is an intracellular serine/threonine kinase involved in cell-matrix interactions. ILK dysregulation has been described in chronic renal disease and modulates podocyte function and fibrosis, whereas data about its role in inflammation are scarce. AngII (angiotensin II) is a pro-inflammatory cytokine that promotes renal inflammation. AngII blockers are renoprotective and down-regulate ILK in experimental kidney disease, but the involvement of ILK in the actions of AngII in the kidney has not been addressed. Therefore we have investigated whether ILK signalling modulates the kidney response to systemic AngII infusion in wild-type and ILK-conditional knockout mice. In wild-type mice, AngII induced an inflammatory response, characterized by infiltration of monocytes/macrophages and lymphocytes, and up-regulation of pro-inflammatory factors (chemokines, adhesion molecules and cytokines). AngII activated several intracellular signalling mechanisms, such as the NF-?B (nuclear factor ?B) transcription factor, Akt and production of ROS (reactive oxygen species). All these responses were prevented in AngII-infused ILK-deficient mice. In vitro studies characterized further the mechanisms regulating the inflammatory response modulated by ILK. In cultured tubular epithelial cells ILK blockade, by siRNA, inhibited AngII-induced NF-?B subunit p65 phosphorylation and its nuclear translocation. Moreover, ILK gene silencing prevented NF-?B-related pro-inflammatory gene up-regulation. The results of the present study demonstrate that ILK plays a key role in the regulation of renal inflammation by modulating the canonical NF-?B pathway, and suggest a potential therapeutic target for inflammatory renal diseases.
Chronic kidney disease is reaching epidemic proportions worldwide and there is no effective treatment. Connective tissue growth factor (CCN2) has been suggested as a risk biomarker and a potential therapeutic target for renal diseases, but its specific receptor has not been identified. Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) participates in kidney damage, but whether CCN2 activates the EGFR pathway is unknown. Here, we show that CCN2 is a novel EGFR ligand. CCN2 binding to EGFR extracellular domain was demonstrated by surface plasmon resonance. CCN2 contains four distinct structural modules. The carboxyl-terminal module (CCN2(IV)) showed a clear interaction with soluble EGFR, suggesting that EGFR-binding site is located in this module. Injection of CCN2(IV) in mice increased EGFR phosphorylation in the kidney, mainly in tubular epithelial cells. EGFR kinase inhibition decreased CCN2(IV)-induced renal changes (ERK activation and inflammation). Studies in cultured tubular epithelial cells showed that CCN2(IV) binds to EGFR leading to ERK activation and proinflammatory factors overexpression. CCN2 interacts with the neurotrophin receptor TrkA, and EGFR/TrkA receptor crosstalk was found in response to CCN2(IV) stimulation. Moreover, endogenous CCN2 blockade inhibited TGF-?-induced EGFR activation. These findings indicate that CCN2 is a novel EGFR ligand that contributes to renal damage through EGFR signalling.
TWEAK, a member of the TNF superfamily, binds to the Fn14 receptor eliciting biological responses. EGFR signaling is involved in experimental renal injury. Our aim was to investigate the relation between TWEAK and EGFR in the kidney. Systemic TWEAK administration into C57BL/6 mice increased renal EGFR phosphorylation, mainly in tubular epithelial cells. In vitro, in these cells TWEAK phosphorylated EGFR via Fn14 binding, ADAM17 activation, and subsequent release of the EGFR ligands HB-EGF and TGF-?. In vivo, the EGFR kinase inhibitor Erlotinib inhibited TWEAK-induced renal EGFR activation and downstream signaling, including ERK activation, up-regulation of proinflammatory factors and inflammatory cell infiltration. Moreover, the ADAM17 inhibitor WTACE-2 also prevented those TWEAK-induced renal effects. In vitro TWEAK induction of proinflammatory factors was prevented by EGFR, ERK or ADAM17 inhibition. In contrast, EGFR transactivation did not modify TWEAK-mediated NF-?B activation. Our data suggest that TWEAK transactivates EGFR in the kidney, leading to modulation of downstream effects, including ERK activation and inflammation, and suggest that inhibition of EGFR signaling could be a novel therapeutic tool for renal inflammation.
Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF/CCN2) is a matricellular protein susceptible to proteolytic degradation. CCN2 levels have been suggested as a potential risk biomarker in several chronic diseases. In body fluids, CCN2 full-length and its degradation fragments can be found; however, their in vivo effects are far from being elucidated. CCN2 was described as a profibrotic mediator, but this concept is changing to a proinflammatory cytokine. In vitro, CCN2 full-length and its C-terminal module IV (CCN2(IV)) exert proinflammatory properties. Emerging evidence suggest that Th17 cells, and its effector cytokine IL-17A, participate in chronic inflammatory diseases. Our aim was to explore whether CCN2(IV) could regulate the Th17 response. In vitro, stimulation of human naive CD4+ T lymphocytes with CCN2(IV) resulted in differentiation to Th17 phenotype. The in vivo effects of CCN2(IV) were studied in C57BL/6 mice. Intraperitoneal administration of recombinant CCN2(IV) did not change serum IL-17A levels, but caused an activation of the Th17 response in the kidney, characterized by interstitial infiltration of Th17 (IL17A+/CD4+) cells and upregulation of proinflammatory mediators. In CCN2(IV)-injected mice, elevated renal levels of Th17-related factors (IL-17A, IL-6, STAT3 and ROR?t) were found, whereas Th1/Th2 cytokines or Treg-related factors (TGF-? and Foxp-3) were not modified. Treatment with an anti-IL-17A neutralizing antibody diminished CCN2(IV)-induced renal inflammation. Our findings unveil that the C-terminal module of CCN2 induces the Th17 differentiation of human Th17 cells and causes a renal Th17 inflammatory response. Furthermore, these data bear out that IL-17A targeting is a promising tool for chronic inflammatory diseases, including renal pathologies.
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-? (TGF-?), leading to an increase in TGF-?-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-? 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-?, 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-? 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.
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is an important process that contributes to renal fibrogenesis. TGF-beta1 and EGF stimulate EMT. Recent studies suggested that parathyroid hormone-related protein (PTHrP) promotes fibrogenesis in the damaged kidney, apparently dependent on its interaction with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), but whether it also interacts with TGF-beta and EGF to modulate EMT is unknown. Here, PTHrP(1-36) increased TGF-beta1 in cultured tubuloepithelial cells and TGF-beta blockade inhibited PTHrP-induced EMT-related changes, including upregulation of alpha-smooth muscle actin and integrin-linked kinase, nuclear translocation of Snail, and downregulation of E-cadherin and zonula occludens-1. PTHrP(1-36) also induced EGF receptor (EGFR) activation; inhibition of protein kinase C and metalloproteases abrogated this activation. Inhibition of EGFR activation abolished these EMT-related changes, the activation of ERK1/2, and upregulation of TGF-beta1 and VEGF by PTHrP(1-36). Moreover, inhibition of ERK1/2 blocked EMT induced by either PTHrP(1-36), TGF-beta1, EGF, or VEGF. In vivo, obstruction of mouse kidneys led to changes consistent with EMT and upregulation of TGF-beta1 mRNA, p-EGFR protein, and PTHrP. Taken together, these data suggest that PTHrP, TGF-beta, EGF, and VEGF might cooperate through activation of ERK1/2 to induce EMT in renal tubuloepithelial cells.
Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is an important profibrotic factor in kidney diseases. Blockade of endogenous CTGF ameliorates experimental renal damage and inhibits synthesis of extracellular matrix in cultured renal cells. CTGF regulates several cellular responses, including adhesion, migration, proliferation, and synthesis of proinflammatory factors. Here, we investigated whether CTGF participates in the inflammatory process in the kidney by evaluating the nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kappaB) pathway, a key signaling system that controls inflammation and immune responses. Systemic administration of CTGF to mice for 24 h induced marked infiltration of inflammatory cells in the renal interstitium (T lymphocytes and monocytes/macrophages) and led to elevated renal NF-kappaB activity. Administration of CTGF increased renal expression of chemokines (MCP-1 and RANTES) and cytokines (INF-gamma, IL-6, and IL-4) that recruit immune cells and promote inflammation. Treatment with a NF-kappaB inhibitor, parthenolide, inhibited CTGF-induced renal inflammatory responses, including the up-regulation of chemokines and cytokines. In cultured murine tubuloepithelial cells, CTGF rapidly activated the NF-kappaB pathway and the cascade of mitogen-activated protein kinases, demonstrating crosstalk between these signaling pathways. CTGF, via mitogen-activated protein kinase and NF-kappaB activation, increased proinflammatory gene expression. These data show that in addition to its profibrotic properties, CTGF contributes to the recruitment of inflammatory cells in the kidney by activating the NF-kappaB pathway.
Chronic kidney disease is characterized by accumulation of extracellular matrix in the tubulointerstitial area. Fibroblasts are the main matrix-producing cells. One source of activated fibroblasts is the epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT). In cultured tubular epithelial cells, transforming growth factor-? (TGF-?1) induced Gremlin production associated with EMT phenotypic changes, and therefore Gremlin has been proposed as a downstream TGF-?1 mediator. Gremlin is a developmental gene upregulated in chronic kidney diseases associated with matrix accumulation, but its direct role in the modulation of renal fibrosis and its relation with TGF-? has not been investigated.
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-?1 (TGF-?1) has been involved in epithelial mesenchymal transition. AngII mimics many profibrotic actions of TGF-?1. 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-?1, 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.
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