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Hum Mol Genet. 2011 Nov 1;20(21):4143-54. doi: 10.1093/hmg/ddr338. Epub 2011 Aug 5.

Pyrimethamine inhibits adult polycystic kidney disease by modulating STAT signaling pathways.

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  • 1Renal Division, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.


Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a commonly inherited disorder mostly caused by mutations in PKD1, encoding polycystin-1 (PC1). The disease is characterized by development and growth of epithelium-lined cyst in both kidneys, often leading to renal failure. There is no specific treatment for this disease. Here, we report a sustained activation of the transcription factor signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3) in ischemic injured and uninjured Pkd1 knockout polycystic kidneys and in human ADPKD kidneys. Through a chemical library screen, we identified the anti-parasitic compound pyrimethamine as an inhibitor of STAT3 function. Treatment with pyrimethamine decreases cell proliferation in human ADPKD cells and blocks renal cyst formation in an adult and a neonatal PKD mouse model. Moreover, we demonstrated that a specific STAT3 inhibitor, S3I-201, reduces cyst formation and growth in a neonatal PKD mouse model. Our results suggest that PC1 acts as a negative regulator of STAT3 and that blocking STAT3 signaling with pyrimethamine or similar drugs may be an attractive therapy for human ADPKD.

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