Background: CLIC4, a member of the CLIC family of proteins, was recently demonstrated to translocate to the nucleus in differentiating keratinocytes where it potentiates TGFβ-driven gene regulation. Since TGFβ signaling is known to play important roles in the fibrotic response to acute kidney injury, and since CLIC4 is abundantly expressed in kidney, we hypothesized that CLIC4 may play a role in the response to acute kidney injury.
Methods: Previously described Clic4 null mice were analyzed for the effect of absence of CLIC4 on growth, development and response to kidney injury. Kidney size, glomerular counts and density of peritubular capillaries of matched WT and Clic4 null mice were determined. Cohorts of WT and Clic4 null mice were subjected to the folic acid model of acute kidney injury. Extent of acute injury and long term functional recovery were assessed by plasma blood urea nitrogen (BUN); long term fibrosis/scarring was determined by histochemical assessment of kidney sections and by residual renal mass. Activation of the TGFβ signaling pathway was assessed by semi-quantitative western blots of phosphorylated SMADs 2 and 3.
Results: CLIC4 is abundantly expressed in the apical pole of renal proximal tubule cells, and in endothelial cells of glomerular and peritubular capillaries. CLIC4 null mice are small, have smaller kidneys with fewer glomeruli and less dense peritubular capillary networks, and have increased proteinuria. The Clic4 null mice show increased susceptibility to folic acid-induced acute kidney injury but no difference in recovery from acute injury, no nuclear redistribution of CLIC4 following injury, and no significant difference in activation of the TGFβ-signaling pathway as reflected in the level of phosphorylation of SMADs 2 and 3.
Conclusions: Absence of CLIC4 results in morphologic changes consistent with its known role in angiogenesis. These changes may be at least partially responsible for the increased susceptibility to acute kidney injury. However, the absence of CLIC4 has no significant impact on the extent of functional recovery or fibrosis following acute injury, indicating that CLIC4 does not play a major non-redundant role in the TGFβ signaling involved in response to acute kidney injury.