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Drugs. 2007;67(17):2495-510.

Potential pharmacological interventions in polycystic kidney disease.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, Health Sciences Center, University of Colorado School of Medicine, Denver, Colorado, USA.


Polycystic kidney diseases (autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive) are progressive renal tubular cystic diseases, which are characterised by cyst expansion and loss of normal kidney structure and function. Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is the most common life- threatening, hereditary disease. ADPKD is more prevalent than Huntington's disease, haemophilia, sickle cell disease, cystic fibrosis, myotonic dystrophy and Down's syndrome combined. Early diagnosis and treatment of hypertension with inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) and its potential protective effect on left ventricular hypertrophy has been one of the major therapeutic goals to decrease cardiac complications and contribute to improved prognosis of the disease. Advances in the understanding of the genetics, molecular biology and pathophysiology of the disease are likely to facilitate the improvement of treatments for these diseases. Developments in describing the role of intracellular calcium ([Ca(2+)](i)) and its correlation with cellular signalling systems, Ras/Raf/mitogen extracellular kinase (MEK)/extracellular signal-regulated protein kinase (ERK), and interaction of these pathways with cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) levels, provide new insights on treatment strategies. Blocking the vasopressin V(2) receptor, a major adenylyl cyclase agonist, demonstrated significant improvements in inhibiting cytogenesis in animal models. Because of activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, the use of sirolimus (rapamycin) an mTOR inhibitor, markedly reduced cyst formation and decreased polycystic kidney size in several animal models. Caspase inhibitors have been shown to decrease cytogenesis and renal failure in rats with cystic disease. Cystic fluid secretion results in cyst enlargement and somatostatin analogues have been shown to decrease renal cyst progression in patients with ADPKD. The safety and efficacy of these classes of drugs provide potential interventions for experimental and clinical trials.

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