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Am J Physiol Renal Physiol. 2019 Oct 1;317(4):F1022-F1033. doi: 10.1152/ajprenal.00077.2019. Epub 2019 Aug 14.

Sonic hedgehog selectively promotes lymphangiogenesis after kidney injury through noncanonical pathway.

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Department of Pathology, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.


Kidney fibrosis is associated with an increased lymphangiogenesis, characterized by the formation and expansion of new lymphatic vessels. However, the trigger and underlying mechanism responsible for the growth of lymphatic vessels in diseased kidney remain poorly defined. Here, we report that tubule-derived sonic hedgehog (Shh) ligand is a novel lymphangiogenic factor that plays a crucial role in mediating lymphatic endothelial cell proliferation and expansion. Shh was induced in renal tubular epithelium in various models of fibrotic chronic kidney disease, and this was accompanied by an expansion of lymphatic vessels in adjacent areas. In vitro, Shh selectively promoted the proliferation of human dermal lymphatic endothelial cells (HDLECs) but not human umbilical vein endothelial cells, as assessed by cell counting, MTT assay, and bromodeoxyuridine incorporation. Shh also induced the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3, cyclin D1, and proliferating cell nuclear antigen in HDLECs. Shh did not affect the expression of Gli1, the downstream target and readout of canonical hedgehog signaling, but activated ERK-1/2 in HDLECs. Inhibition of Smoothened with small-molecule inhibitor or blockade of ERK-1/2 activation abolished the lymphatic endothelial cell proliferation induced by Shh. In vivo, inhibition of Smoothened also repressed lymphangiogenesis and attenuated renal fibrosis. This study identifies Shh as a novel mitogen that selectively promotes lymphatic, but not vascular, endothelial cell proliferation and suggests that tubule-derived Shh plays an essential role in mediating lymphangiogenesis after kidney injury.


chronic kidney disease; inflammation; kidney fibrosis; lymphangiogenesis; lymphatic endothelial cells; sonic hedgehog

[Available on 2020-10-01]

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