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Pflugers Arch. 2011 Sep;462(3):455-67. doi: 10.1007/s00424-011-0981-y. Epub 2011 Jun 7.

Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in podocytes mediated by activation of NADPH oxidase in hyperhomocysteinemia.

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Department of Pharmacology & Toxicology, Medical College of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA, 23298, USA.


The present study tested the hypothesis that hyperhomocysteinemia (hHcys) induces podocytes to undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) through the activation of NADPH oxidase (Nox). It was found that increased homocysteine (Hcys) level suppressed the expression of slit diaphragm-associated proteins, P-cadherin and zonula occludens-1 (ZO-1), in conditionally immortalized mouse podocytes, indicating the loss of their epithelial features. Meanwhile, Hcys remarkably increased the abundance of mesenchymal markers, such as fibroblast specific protein-1 (FSP-1) and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA). These phenotype changes in podocytes induced by Hcys were accompanied by enhanced superoxide (O⁻₂) production, which was substantially suppressed by inhibition of Nox activity. Functionally, Hcys significantly enhanced the permeability of the podocyte monolayer coupled with increased EMT, and this EMT-related increase in cell permeability could be restored by Nox inhibitors. In mice lacking gp91( phox ) (gp91(-/-)), an essential Nox subunit gene, hHcys-enhanced podocyte EMT and consequent glomerular injury were examined. In wild-type (gp91(+/+)) mice, hHcys induced by a folate-free diet markedly enhanced expression of mesenchymal markers (FSP-1 and α-SMA) but decreased expression of epithelial markers of podocytes in glomeruli, which were not observed in gp91(-/-) mouse glomeruli. Podocyte injury, glomerular sclerotic pathology, and marked albuminuria observed in gp91(+/+) mice with hHcys were all significantly attenuated in gp91(-/-) mice. These results suggest that hHcys induces EMT of podocytes through activation of Nox, which represents a novel mechanism of hHcys-associated podocyte injury.

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