The TGFβ-ERK pathway contributes to Notch3 upregulation in the renal tubular epithelial cells of patients with obstructive nephropathy
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Renal interstitial fibrosis is a common renal injury resulted from a variety of chronic kidney conditions and an array of factors. We report here that Notch3 is a potential contributor. In comparison to 6 healthy individuals, a robust elevation of Notch3 expression was observed in the renal tubular epithelial cells of 18 patients with obstructive nephropathy. In a rat unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) model which mimics the human disease, Notch3 upregulation closely followed the course of renal injury, renal fibrosis, TGFβ expression, and alpha-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) expression, suggesting a role of Notch3 in promoting tubulointerstitial fibrosis. This possibility was supported by the observation that TGFβ, the major renal fibrogenic cytokine, stimulated Notch3 expression in human proximal tubule epithelial HK-2 cells. TGFβ enhanced the activation of ERK, p38, but not JNK MAP kinases in HK-2 cells. While inhibition of p38 activation using SB203580 did not affect TGFβ-induced Notch3 expression, inhibition of ERK activation with a MEK1 inhibitor PD98059 dramatically reduced the event. Furthermore, enforced ERK activation through overexpression of the constitutively active MEK1 mutant MEK1Q56P upregulated Notch3 expression in HK-2 cells, and PD98059 reduced ERK activation and Notch3 expression in HK-2 cells expressing MEK1Q56P. Collectively, we provide the first clinical evidence for Notch3 upregulation in patients with obstructive nephropathy; the upregulation is likely mediated through the TGFβ-ERK pathway. This study suggests that Notch3 upregulation contributes to renal injury caused by obstructive nephropathy, which could be prevented or delayed through ERK inhibition.
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