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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2005 Sep;16(9):2690-701. Epub 2005 Jun 29.

Role of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase activation in podocyte injury and proteinuria in experimental nephrotic syndrome.

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Department of Medicine and Clinical Science, Kyoto University Graduate School of Medicine, 54 Shogoin Kawahara-cho, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto 606-8507, Japan.


Podocytes play an important role in maintaining normal glomerular function and structure, and podocyte injury leads to proteinuria and glomerulosclerosis. The family of mitogen-activated protein kinases (MAPK; extracellular signal-regulated kinase [ERK], c-Jun N-terminal kinase, and p38) may be implicated in the progression of various glomerulopathies, but the role of MAPK in podocyte injury remains elusive. This study examined phosphorylation of p38 MAPK in clinical glomerulopathies with podocyte injury, as well as in rat puromycin aminonucleoside (PAN) nephropathy and mouse adriamycin (ADR) nephropathy. The effect of treatment with FR167653, an inhibitor of p38 MAPK, was also investigated in rodent models. In human podocyte injury diseases, the increased phosphorylation of p38 MAPK was observed at podocytes. In PAN and ADR nephropathy, the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK and ERK was marked but transient, preceding overt proteinuria. Pretreatment with FR167653 (day -2 to day 14, subcutaneously) to PAN or ADR nephropathy completely inhibited p38 MAPK activation and attenuated ERK phosphorylation, with complete suppression of proteinuria. Electron microscopy and immunohistochemistry for nephrin and connexin43 revealed that podocyte injury was markedly ameliorated by FR167653. Furthermore, early treatment with FR167653 effectively prevented glomerulosclerosis and renal dysfunction in the chronic phase of ADR nephropathy. In cultured podocytes, PAN or oxidative stress induced the phosphorylation of p38 MAPK along with actin reorganization, and FR167653 inhibited such changes. These findings indicate that the activation of MAPK is necessary for podocyte injury, suggesting that p38 MAPK and, possibly, ERK should become a potential target for therapeutic intervention in proteinuric glomerulopathies.

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