A pathogenic role for c-Jun amino-terminal kinase signaling in renal fibrosis and tubular cell apoptosis

Frank Ma, Robert Flanc, Gregory H Tesch, Yingjie Han, Robert Charles Atkins, Brydon L Bennett, Glenn C Friedman, Jui-Hsiang Fan, David J Nikolic-Paterson

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108 Citations (Scopus)


Renal fibrosis and tubular apoptosis are common mechanisms of progressive kidney disease. In vitro studies have implicated the c-Jun amino-terminal kinase (JNK) pathway in these processes. Both of the major JNK isoforms, JNK1 and JNK2, are expressed in the kidney, but their relative contribution to JNK signaling is unknown. This study investigated the role of JNK signaling in renal fibrosis and tubular apoptosis in the unilateral ureteral obstruction model using two different approaches: (1) Mice that were deficient in either JNK1 or JNK2 and (2) a specific inhibitor of all JNK isoforms, CC-401. Western blotting and immunostaining identified a marked increase in JNK signaling in the obstructed kidney, with substantial redundancy between JNK1 and JNK2 isoforms. Administration of CC-401 blocked JNK signaling in the rat obstructed kidney and significantly inhibited renal fibrosis in terms of interstitial myofibroblast accumulation and collagen IV deposition. This effect was attributed to suppression of gene transcription for the profibrotic molecules TGF-beta 1 and connective tissue growth factor. CC-401 treatment also significantly reduced tubular apoptosis in the obstructed kidney. Genetic deletion of JNK1 or JNK2 did not protect mice from renal fibrosis in the unilateral ureteral obstruction model, but JNK1 deletion did result in a significant reduction in tubular cell apoptosis. In conclusion, this is the first study to demonstrate that JNK signaling plays a pathogenic role in renal fibrosis and tubular apoptosis. Furthermore, JNK1 plays a nonredundant role in tubular cell apoptosis. These studies identify the JNK pathway as a potential therapeutic target in progressive kidney disease.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)472 - 484
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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