Macrophages Regulate Unilateral Ureteral Obstruction-Induced Renal Lymphangiogenesis through C-C Motif Chemokine Receptor 2–Dependent Phosphatidylinositol 3-Kinase-AKT–Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin Signaling and Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1α/Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-C Expression
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Lymphangiogenesis occurs during renal fibrosis in patients with chronic kidney diseases and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-C is required for the formation of lymphatic vessels; however, the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We demonstrate that macrophages can regulate unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO)-induced renal lymphangiogenesis by expressing high levels of VEGF-C by C-C motif chemokine receptor 2 (CCR2)-mediated signaling. Mice deficient in Ccr2 manifested repressed lymphangiogenesis along with attenuated renal injury and fibrosis after UUO induction. The infiltrated macrophages after UUO induction generated a microenvironment in favor of lymphangiogenesis, which likely depended on Ccr2 expression. Mechanistic studies revealed that CCR2 is required for macrophages to activate phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase (PI3K)-AKT-mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling in response to its ligand monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 stimulation, whereas hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1α is downstream of PI3K-AKT-mTOR signaling. HIF-1α directly bound to the VEGF-C promoter to drive its expression to enhance lymphangiogenesis. Collectively, we characterized a novel regulatory network in macrophages, in which CCR2 activates PI3K-AKT-mTOR signaling to mediate HIF-1α expression, which then drives VEGF-C expression to promote lymphangiogenesis.
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