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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2011 May;300(5):F1235-43. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00348.2010. Epub 2011 Jan 26.

Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α) and autophagy in polycystic kidney disease (PKD).

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  • 1Division of Renal Diseases and Hypertension, University of Colorado at Denver and Health Sciences Center, Aurora, 80262, USA.


Cyst expansion in polycystic kidney disease (PKD) results in localized hypoxia in the kidney that may activate hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α). HIF-1α and autophagy, a form of programmed cell repair, are induced by hypoxia. The purposes were to determine HIF-1α expression and autophagy in rat and mouse models of PKD. HIF-1α was detected by electrochemiluminescence. Autophagy was visualized by electron microscopy (EM). LC3 and beclin-1, markers of autophagy, were detected by immunoblotting. Eight-week-old male heterozygous (Cy/+) and 4-wk-old homozygous (Cy/Cy) Han:SPRD rats, 4-wk-old cpk mice, and 112-day-old Pkd2WS25/- mice with a mutation in the Pkd2 gene were studied. HIF-1α was significantly increased in massive Cy/Cy and cpk kidneys and not smaller Cy/+ and Pkd2WS25/- kidneys. On EM, features of autophagy were seen in wild-type (+/+), Cy/+, and cpk kidneys: autophagosomes, mitophagy, and autolysosomes. Specifically, autophagosomes were found on EM in the tubular cells lining the cysts in cpk mice. The increase in LC3-II, a marker of autophagosome production and beclin, a regulator of autophagy, in Cy/Cy and cpk kidneys, followed the same pattern of increase as HIF-1α. To determine the role of HIF-1α in cyst formation and/or growth, Cy/+ rats, Cy/Cy rats, and cpk mice were treated with the HIF-1α inhibitor 2-methoxyestradiol (2ME2). 2ME2 had no significant effect on kidney volume or cyst volume density. In summary, HIF-1α is highly expressed in the late stages of PKD and is associated with an increase in LC3-II and beclin-1. The first demonstration of autophagosomes in PKD kidneys is reported. Inhibition of HIF-1α did not have a therapeutic effect.

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