Background: Autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD) is a common cause of renal failure. Aberrant epithelial cell proliferation is a major cause of progressive cyst enlargement in ADPKD. Since activation of the Ras/Raf signaling system has been detected in cyst-lining epithelia, inhibition of Raf kinase has been proposed as an approach to retard the progression of ADPKD. Methods and results. PLX5568, a novel selective small molecule inhibitor of Raf kinases, attenuated proliferation of human ADPKD cyst epithelial cells. It reduced in vitro cyst growth of Madin-Darby Canine Kidney cells and of human ADPKD cells within a collagen gel. In male cy/+ rats with polycystic kidneys, PLX5568 inhibited renal cyst growth along with a significant reduction in the number of proliferating cell nuclear antigen- and phosphorylated extracellular signal-regulated kinase-positive cyst-lining epithelial cells. Furthermore, treated animals showed increased capacity to concentrate urine. However, PLX5568 did not lead to a consistent improvement of renal function. Moreover, although relative cyst volume was decreased, total kidney-to-body weight ratio was not significantly reduced by PLX5568. Further analyses revealed a 2-fold increase of renal and hepatic fibrosis in animals treated with PLX5568.
Conclusions: PLX5568 attenuated cyst enlargement in vitro and in a rat model of ADPKD without improving kidney function, presumably due to increased renal fibrosis. These data suggest that effective therapies for the treatment of ADPKD will need to target fibrosis as well as the growth of cysts.