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Nat Med. 2008 Aug;14(8):863-8. doi: 10.1038/nm1783. Epub 2008 Jun 15.

A tumor necrosis factor-alpha-mediated pathway promoting autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.

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  • 1Stowers Institute for Medical Research, 1000 East 50th Street, Kansas City, Missouri 64110, USA.


Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is caused by heterozygous mutations in either PKD1 or PKD2, genes that encode polycystin-1 and polycystin-2, respectively. We show here that tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), an inflammatory cytokine present in the cystic fluid of humans with ADPKD, disrupts the localization of polycystin-2 to the plasma membrane and primary cilia through a scaffold protein, FIP2, which is induced by TNF-alpha. Treatment of mouse embryonic kidney organ cultures with TNF-alpha resulted in formation of cysts, and this effect was exacerbated in the Pkd2(+/-) kidneys. TNF-alpha also stimulated cyst formation in vivo in Pkd2(+/-) mice. In contrast, treatment of Pkd2(+/-) mice with the TNF-alpha inhibitor etanercept prevented cyst formation. These data reveal a pathway connecting TNF-alpha signaling, polycystins and cystogenesis, the activation of which may reduce functional polycystin-2 below a critical threshold, precipitating the ADPKD cellular phenotype.

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