Patients with end-stage kidney disease on peritoneal dialysis often develop progressive scarring of the peritoneal tissues. This manifests as submesothelial thickening and is associated with increased vascularization that leads to ultrafiltration dysfunction. Hypoxia induces a characteristic series of responses including angiogenesis and fibrosis. We investigated the role of hypoxia in peritoneal membrane damage. An adenovirus expressing transforming growth factor (TGF) β was used to induce peritoneal fibrosis. We evaluated the effect of the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin, which has been previously shown to block hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF) 1α. We also assessed the effect of HIF1α independently using an adenovirus expressing active HIF1α. To identify the TGFβ1-independent effects of HIF1α, we expressed HIF1α in the peritoneum of mice lacking the TGFβ signalling molecule Smad3. We demonstrate that TGFβ-induced fibroproliferative tissue is hypoxic. Rapamycin did not affect the early angiogenic response, but inhibited angiogenesis and submesothelial thickening 21 days after induction of fibrosis. In primary mesothelial cell culture, rapamycin had no effect on TGFβ-induced vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) but did suppress hypoxia-induced VEGF. HIF1α induced submesothelial thickening and angiogenesis in peritoneal tissue. The fibrogenic effects of HIF1α were Smad3 dependent. In summary, submesothelial hypoxia may be an important secondary factor, which augments TGFβ-induced peritoneal injury. The hypoxic response is mediated partly through HIF1α and the mTOR inhibitor rapamycin blocks the hypoxic-induced angiogenic effects but does not affect the direct TGFβ-mediated fibrosis and angiogenesis.
© 2012 The Authors Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine © 2012 Foundation for Cellular and Molecular Medicine/Blackwell Publishing Ltd.