The endothelin system has emerged as a novel target for the treatment of diabetic nephropathy. Endothelin-1 promotes mesangial cell proliferation and sclerosis. However, no direct pathogenic effect of endothelin-1 on podocytes has been shown in vivo and endothelin-1 signaling in podocytes has not been investigated. This study investigated endothelin effects in podocytes during experimental diabetic nephropathy. Stimulation of primary mouse podocytes with endothelin-1 elicited rapid calcium transients mediated by endothelin type A receptors (ETARs) and endothelin type B receptors (ETBRs). We then generated mice with a podocyte-specific double deletion of ETAR and ETBR (NPHS2-Cre×Ednra(lox/lox)×Ednrb(lox/lox) [Pod-ETRKO]). In vitro, treatment with endothelin-1 increased total β-catenin and phospho-NF-κB expression in wild-type glomeruli, but this effect was attenuated in Pod-ETRKO glomeruli. After streptozotocin injection to induce diabetes, wild-type mice developed mild diabetic nephropathy with microalbuminuria, mesangial matrix expansion, glomerular basement membrane thickening, and podocyte loss, whereas Pod-ETRKO mice presented less albuminuria and were completely protected from glomerulosclerosis and podocyte loss, even when uninephrectomized. Moreover, glomeruli from normal and diabetic Pod-ETRKO mice expressed substantially less total β-catenin and phospho-NF-κB compared with glomeruli from counterpart wild-type mice. This evidence suggests that endothelin-1 drives development of glomerulosclerosis and podocyte loss through direct activation of endothelin receptors and NF-κB and β-catenin pathways in podocytes. Notably, both the expression and function of the ETBR subtype were found to be important. Furthermore, these results indicate that activation of the endothelin-1 pathways selectively in podocytes mediates pathophysiologic crosstalk that influences mesangial architecture and sclerosis.
Copyright © 2014 by the American Society of Nephrology.