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Mol Pharmacol. 2013 Dec;84(6):808-23. doi: 10.1124/mol.113.088229. Epub 2013 Sep 13.

Hepatocyte nuclear factors 4α and 1α regulate kidney developmental expression of drug-metabolizing enzymes and drug transporters.

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Department of Pediatrics (G.M., S.K.N.), Department of Biomedical Sciences (G.M.), Department of Medicine (S.K.N.), and Department of Cellular and Molecular Medicine (S.K.N.), University of California at San Diego, La Jolla, California; and Department of Pediatrics, Dalhousie University and IWK Health Centre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (J.B.T.).


The transcriptional regulation of drug-metabolizing enzymes and transporters (here collectively referred to as DMEs) in the developing proximal tubule (PT) is not well understood. As in the liver, DME regulation in the PT may be mediated through nuclear receptors, which are thought to "sense" deviations from homeostasis by being activated by ligands, some of which are handled by DMEs, including drug transporters. Systems analysis of transcriptomic data during kidney development predicted a set of upstream transcription factors, including hepatocyte nuclear factor 4α (Hnf4a) and Hnf1a, as well as Nr3c1 (Gr), Nfe2l2 (Nrf2), peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (Pparα), and Tp53. Motif analysis of cis-regulatory enhancers further suggested that Hnf4a and Hnf1a are the main transcriptional regulators of DMEs in the PT. Available expression data from tissue-specific Hnf4a knockout tissues revealed that distinct subsets of DMEs were regulated by Hnf4a in a tissue-specific manner. Chromatin immunoprecipitation combined with massively parallel DNA sequencing was performed to characterize the PT-specific binding sites of Hnf4a in rat kidneys at three developmental stages (prenatal, immature, adult), which further supported a major role for Hnf4a in regulating PT gene expression, including DMEs. In ex vivo kidney organ culture, an antagonist of Hnf4a (but not a similar inactive compound) led to predicted changes in DME expression, including among others Fmo1, Cyp2d2, Cyp2d4, Nqo2, as well as organic cation transporters and organic anion transporters Slc22a1 (Oct1), Slc22a2 (Oct2), Slc22a6 (Oat1), Slc22a8 (Oat3), and Slc47a1 (Mate1). Conversely, overexpression of Hnf1a and Hnf4a in primary mouse embryonic fibroblasts, sometimes considered a surrogate for mesenchymal stem cells, induced expression of several of these proximal tubule DMEs, as well as epithelial markers and a PT-enriched brush border marker Ggt1. These cells had organic anion transporter function. Taken together, the data strongly supports a critical role for HNF4a and Hnf1a in the tissue-specific regulation of drug handling and differentiation toward a PT-like cellular identity. We discuss our data in the context of the "remote sensing and signaling hypothesis" (Ahn and Nigam, 2009; Wu et al., 2011).

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