Aims/hypothesis: Chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand 12 (CXCL12) (also known as stromal cell-derived factor-1 [SDF-1]-alpha) is a homeostatic chemokine with multiple roles in cell homing, tumour metastasis, angiogenesis and tissue regeneration after acute injuries. However, its role in chronic diseases remains poorly defined, e.g. in chronic glomerular diseases like diabetic glomerulosclerosis. We hypothesised that CXCL12 may have a functional role during the evolution of diabetic glomerulosclerosis, either by assisting glomerular repair or by supporting the maladaptive tissue remodelling in response to hyperglycaemia and glomerular hyperfiltration.
Methods: To define the functional role of CXCL12 in the progression of glomerular disease, we used the CXCL12-specific inhibitor NOX-A12, an L: -enantiomeric RNA oligonucleotide (Spiegelmer). A mouse model of type 2 diabetes (db/db mice) was used. Male db/db mice, uni-nephrectomised at 6 weeks of age, received subcutaneous injections with a PEGylated form of NOX-A12, non-functional control Spiegelmer or vehicle on alternate days from 4 to 6 months of age.
Results: Immunostaining localised renal CXCL12 production to glomerular podocytes in db/db mice with early or advanced diabetic nephropathy. CXCL12 inhibition significantly reduced the degree of glomerulosclerosis, increased the number of podocytes, prevented the onset of albuminuria and maintained the peritubular vasculature without affecting blood glucose levels, body weight or glomerular macrophage infiltration.
Conclusions/interpretation: We conclude that podocytes produce CXCL12, which contributes to proteinuria and glomerulosclerosis in our mouse model of type 2 diabetes. This novel pathomechanism provides the first evidence that CXCL12 could be a therapeutic target in (diabetic) glomerulosclerosis.