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J Biol Chem. 2005 Mar 4;280(9):8094-100. Epub 2004 Dec 9.

Bone morphogenic protein-7 induces mesenchymal to epithelial transition in adult renal fibroblasts and facilitates regeneration of injured kidney.

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  • 1Center for Matrix Biology, Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02215, USA.


In the kidney, a unique plasticity exists between epithelial and mesenchymal cells. During kidney development, the metanephric mesenchyme contributes to emerging epithelium of the nephron via mesenchymal to epithelial transition (MET). In the injured adult kidney, renal epithelia contribute to the generation of fibroblasts via epithelial-mesenchymal transition, facilitating renal fibrosis. Recombinant human bone morphogenic protein (BMP)-7, a morphogen that is essential for the conversion of epithelia from condensing mesenchyme during kidney development, enhances the repair of tubular structures in the kidney. In this setting, BMP-7 inhibits epithelial-mesenchymal transition involving adult renal epithelial tubular cells and decreases secretion of type I collagen by adult renal fibroblasts. In search of a mechanism behind the ability of BMP-7 to repair damaged renal tubules, we hypothesized that systemic treatment with BMP-7 might induce MET involving adult renal fibroblasts in the injured kidney, generating functional epithelial cells. Here we report that BMP-7 induces formation of epithelial cell aggregates in adult renal fibroblasts associated with reacquisition of E-cadherin expression and decreased motility, mimicking the effect of BMP-7 on embryonic metanephric mesenchyme to generate epithelium. In addition, we provide evidence that BMP-7-mediated repair of renal injury is associated with MET involving adult renal interstitial fibroblasts in mouse models for renal fibrosis. Collectively, these findings suggest that adult renal fibroblasts might retain parts of their original embryonic imprint and plasticity, which can be re-engaged by systemic administration of BMP-7 to mediate repair of tubular injury in a fibrotic kidney.

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