Alport syndrome is a hereditary type IV collagen disease leading to progressive renal fibrosis, hearing loss and ocular changes. End stage renal failure usually develops during adolescence. COL4A3-/- mice serve as an animal model for progressive renal scarring in Alport syndrome. The present study evaluates the role of Discoidin Domain Receptor 1 (DDR1) in cell-matrix interaction involved in pathogenesis of Alport syndrome including renal inflammation and fibrosis. DDR1/COL4A3 Double-knockouts were compared to COL4A3-/- mice with 50% or 100% expression of DDR1, wildtype controls and to DDR1-/- COL4A3+/+ controls for over 6years. Double-knockouts lived 47% longer, mice with 50% DDR1 lived 29% longer and showed improved renal function (reduction in proteinuria and blood urea nitrogen) compared to animals with 100% DDR1 expression. Loss of DDR1 reduced proinflammatory, profibrotic cells via signaling of TGFbeta, CTGF, NFkappaB and IL-6 and decreased deposition of extracellular matrix. Immunogold-staining and in-situ hybridisation identified podocytes as major players in DDR1-mediated fibrosis and inflammation within the kidney. In summary, glomerular epithelial cells (podocytes) express DDR1. Loss of DDR1-expression in the kidney delayed renal fibrosis and inflammation in hereditary type IV collagen disease. This supports our hypothesis that podocyte-matrix interaction via collagen receptors plays an important part in progression of renal fibrosis in Alport disease. The blockade of collagen-receptor DDR1 might serve as an important new therapeutic concept in progressive fibrotic and inflammatory diseases in the future.
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