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Kidney Int. 2011 Oct;80(7):708-18. doi: 10.1038/ki.2011.180. Epub 2011 Jun 22.

TWEAK, a multifunctional cytokine in kidney injury.

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  • 1Servicio de Nefrologia, Fundacion Para la Investigacion Biomedica del Hospital Universitario La Paz, IdiPaz, Madrid, Spain.


Tumor necrosis factor-like weak inducer of apoptosis (TWEAK) is a cytokine of the TNF superfamily that activates the Fn14 receptor. TWEAK may regulate cell proliferation, cell death, cell differentiation, and inflammation. TWEAK and Fn14 are constitutively present in the kidney. Sources of TWEAK and Fn14 include intrinsic renal cells and infiltrating leukocytes. Basal Fn14 expression is low, but Fn14 is greatly upregulated during kidney injury. TWEAK contributes to kidney inflammation promoting chemokine secretion by renal cells through canonical and non-canonical NFκB activation. TWEAK also promotes tubular cell proliferation. However, TWEAK induces mesangial and tubular cell apoptosis under proinflammatory conditions. These data indicate that TWEAK is a multifunctional cytokine in the kidney, the actions of which are modulated by the cell microenvironment. Confirmation of the role of TWEAK in kidney injury came from functional studies in experimental animal models. The TWEAK/Fn14 pathway contributed to cell death and interstitial inflammation during acute kidney injury, to glomerular injury in lupus nephritis, to hyperlipidemia-associated kidney injury, and to tubular cell hyperplasia following unilateral nephrectomy. Circulating soluble TWEAK (sTWEAK) levels are a potential biomarker of adverse outcomes in chronic kidney disease and urinary sTWEAK is a potential biomarker of lupus nephritis activity. The available evidence suggests that TWEAK may provide diagnostic information and be a therapeutic target in renal injury. Its role in human kidney disease should be further explored.

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