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Am J Nephrol. 2013;37(2):175-82. doi: 10.1159/000346812. Epub 2013 Feb 15.

Multidrug therapy for polycystic kidney disease: a review and perspective.

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Department of Biomedical and Specialty Surgical Sciences, University of Ferrara, Ferrara, Italy.


Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a renal disorder characterized by the development of cysts in both kidneys leading to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) by the fifth decade of life. Cysts also occur in other organs, and phenotypic alterations also involve the cardiovascular system. Mutations in the PKD1 and PKD2 genes codifying for polycystin-1 (PC1) and polycystin-2 (PC2) are responsible for the 85 and 15% of ADPKD cases, respectively. PC1 and PC2 defects cause similar symptoms; however, lesions of PKD1 gene are associated with earlier disease onset and faster ESRD progression. The development of kidney cysts requires a somatic 'second hit' to promote focal cyst formation, but also acute renal injury may affect cyst expansion, constituting a 'third hit'. PC1 and PC2 interact forming a complex that regulates calcium homeostasis. Mutations of polycystins induce alteration of Ca(2+) levels likely through the elevation of cAMP. Furthermore, PC1 loss of function also induces activation of mTOR and EGFR signaling. Impaired cAMP, mTOR and EGFR signals lead to activation of a number of processes stimulating both cell proliferation and fluid secretion, contributing to cyst formation and enlargement. Consistently, the inhibition of mTOR, EGFR activity and cAMP accumulation ameliorates renal function in ADPKD animal models, but in ADPKD patients mild results have been shown. Here we briefly review major ADPKD-related pathways, their inhibition and effects on disease progression. Finally, we suggest to reduce abnormal cell proliferation with possible clinical amelioration of ADPKD patients by combined inhibition of cAMP-, EGFR- and mTOR-related pathways.

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