Smads are the key intermediates of canonical transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-β) signaling. These intermediates are divided into three distinct subgroups based on their role in TGF-β family signal transduction: Receptor-regulated Smads (R-Smads) 1, 2, 3, 5 and 8, common Smad4, and inhibitory Smads6 and 7. TGF-β signaling through Smad pathway involves phosphorylation, ubiquitination, sumoylation, acetylation, and protein-protein interactions with mitogen-activated protein kinases, PI3K-Akt/PKB, and Wnt/GSK-3. Several studies have suggested that upregulation or downregulation of TGF-β/Smad signaling pathways may be a pathogenic mechanism in the progression of chronic kidney disease. Smad2 and 3 are the two major downstream R-Smads in TGF-β-mediated renal fibrosis, while Smad7 also controls renal inflammation. In this review, we characterize the role of Smads in kidney disease, describe the molecular mechanisms, and discuss the potential of Smads as a therapeutic target in chronic kidney disease.
Keywords: Kidney disease; Renal fibrosis; Renal inflammation; Smad; TGF-β.