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PLoS One. 2012;7(3):e32454. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0032454. Epub 2012 Mar 12.

Invariant natural killer T cell agonist modulates experimental focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis.

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  • 1Departamento de Medicina - Nefrologia, Universidade Federal de São Paulo, São Paulo, Brasil.


A growing body of evidence demonstrates a correlation between Th2 cytokines and the development of focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS). Therefore, we hypothesized that GSL-1, a monoglycosylceramide from Sphingomonas ssp. with pro-Th1 activity on invariant Natural Killer T (iNKT) lymphocytes, could counterbalance the Th2 profile and modulate glomerulosclerosis. Using an adriamycin(ADM)-based model of FSGS, we found that BALB/c mice presented albuminuria and glomerular degeneration in association with a Th2-like pro-fibrogenic profile; these mice also expressed a combination of inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-4, IL-1α, IL-1β, IL-17, TNF-α, and chemokines, such as RANTES and eotaxin. In addition, we observed a decrease in the mRNA levels of GD3 synthase, the enzyme responsible for GD3 metabolism, a glycolipid associated with podocyte physiology. GSL-1 treatment inhibited ADM-induced renal dysfunction and preserved kidney architecture, a phenomenon associated with the induction of a Th1-like response, increased levels of GD3 synthase transcripts and inhibition of pro-fibrotic transcripts and inflammatory cytokines. TGF-β analysis revealed increased levels of circulating protein and tissue transcripts in both ADM- and GSL-1-treated mice, suggesting that TGF-β could be associated with both FSGS pathology and iNKT-mediated immunosuppression; therefore, we analyzed the kidney expression of phosphorylated SMAD2/3 and SMAD7 proteins, molecules associated with the deleterious and protective effects of TGF-β, respectively. We found high levels of phosphoSMAD2/3 in ADM mice in contrast to the GSL-1 treated group in which SMAD7 expression increased. These data suggest that GSL-1 treatment modulates the downstream signaling of TGF-β through a renoprotective pathway. Finally, GSL-1 treatment at day 4, a period when proteinuria was already established, was still able to improve renal function, preserve renal structure and inhibit fibrogenic transcripts. In conclusion, our work demonstrates that the iNKT agonist GSL-1 modulates the pathogenesis of ADM-induced glomerulosclerosis and may provide an alternative approach to disease management.

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