Hypoxia-inducible factor signaling in the development of kidney fibrosis

Fibrogenesis Tissue Repair. 2012 Jun 6;5(Suppl 1):S16. doi: 10.1186/1755-1536-5-S1-S16. eCollection 2012.


A discrepancy between oxygen availability and demand has been found in most chronic kidney diseases (CKD) irrespective of etiology. This results from a combination of structural and functional changes that are commonly associated with the development of fibrosis, which include a reduction in peritubular blood flow, luminal narrowing of atherosclerotic vessels, capillary rarefaction and vascular constriction due to altered expression of vasoactive factors and signaling molecules (e.g. angiotensin II, endothelin, nitric oxide). Consistent with decreased renal oxygenation in CKD is the increased expression of the oxygen-sensitive α-subunit of hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1. HIF transcription factors are members of the Per-ARNT-Sim (PAS) family of heterodimeric basic helix-loop-helix transcription factors and consist of an oxygen-sensitive α-subunit and a constitutively expressed β-unit, also known as the aryl-hydrocarbon-receptor nuclear translocator (ARNT) or HIF-β. Recent experimental evidence suggests that prolonged activation of HIF signaling in renal epithelial cells enhances maladaptive responses, which lead to fibrosis and further tissue destruction. Cell type-specific functions of individual HIF transcription factors and their relevant transcriptional targets are discussed in the context of renal fibrogenesis.