Cyclosporine-induced endoplasmic reticulum stress triggers tubular phenotypic changes and death

Am J Transplant. 2008 Nov;8(11):2283-96. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-6143.2008.02396.x. Epub 2008 Sep 10.


The molecular mechanisms by which cyclosporine induces chronic nephrotoxicity remain poorly understood. A previous transcriptomic study suggested that cyclosporine might induce endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress in human tubular cells. The aim of the present study was to characterize the features of tubular ER stress induced by cyclosporine and to investigate its effects on cell differentiation and viability. Using primary cultures of human tubular cells, we confirmed that cyclosporine is responsible for ER stress in vitro. This was also confirmed in vivo in the rat. In vitro, cyclosporine and other ER stress inducers were responsible for epithelial phenotypic changes leading to the generation of protomyofibroblasts, independent of transforming growth factor-beta signaling. RNA interference directed against cyclophilin A supported the role of its inhibition in triggering ER stress as well as epithelial phenotypic changes induced by cyclosporine. Salubrinal, which is known to protect cells from ER stress, significantly reduced epithelial phenotypic changes and cytotoxicity induced by cyclosporine in vitro. Salubrinal also reduced cyclosporine nephrotoxicity in rat kidneys. Thus, we describe a novel mechanism that initiates dedifferentiation and tubular cell death upon cyclosporine treatment. These results provide an interesting framework for further nephroprotective therapies by targeting ER stress.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Survival
  • Cinnamates / pharmacology
  • Cyclophilin A / metabolism
  • Cyclosporine / pharmacology*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / drug effects*
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Male
  • Phenotype
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Thiourea / analogs & derivatives
  • Thiourea / pharmacology
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta / metabolism


  • Cinnamates
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta
  • salubrinal
  • Cyclosporine
  • Cyclophilin A
  • Thiourea