RNA-binding proteins tristetraprolin and human antigen R are novel modulators of podocyte injury in diabetic kidney disease

Cell Death Dis. 2020 Jun 2;11(6):413. doi: 10.1038/s41419-020-2630-x.


Diabetic kidney disease (DKD) is one of the most common complications of diabetes, and the most common cause of end-stage renal disease, for which no effective therapies are yet available. RNA-binding proteins (RBPs) play a pivotal role in epigenetic regulation; tristetraprolin (TTP) and human antigen R (HuR) competitively bind cytokine mRNAs, exert contrasting effects on RNA stability, and drive inflammation. However, RBPs' roles in diabetes-related glomerulopathy are poorly understood. Herein, we investigated whether TTP and HuR are involved in post-transcriptional regulation of podocytopathic molecules and inflammatory cytokines in DKD. In DKD patients and db/db mice, TTP expression was significantly decreased and HuR expression was increased in glomerular podocytes, concurrent with podocyte injury, histological signs of DKD, and augmented glomerular expression of interleukin (IL)-17 and claudin-1, which are targets of TTP and HuR, as evidenced by RNA immunoprecipitation. In cultured podocytes, exposure to high ambient glucose amplified HuR expression and repressed TTP expression, upregulated IL-17 and claudin-1, and promoted podocyte injury. Thus, TTP hypoactivity or HuR hyperactivity is sufficient and essential to diabetic podocytopathy. Moreover, in silico analysis revealed that several kinases govern phosphorylation and activation of TTP and HuR, and glycogen synthase kinase (GSK)-3β activated both TTP and HuR, which harbor putative GSK-3β consensus phosphorylation motifs. Treatment of db/db mice with a small molecule inhibitor of GSK-3β abrogated the changes in TTP and HuR in glomeruli and mitigated the overexpression of their target genes (IL-17, claudin-1, B7-1, and MCP-1) thus also mitigating proteinuria and DKD pathology. Our study indicates that TTP and HuR are dysregulated in DKD via a GSK-3β-mediated mechanism and play crucial roles in podocyte injury through post-transcriptional regulation of diverse genes. It also provides novel insights into DKD's pathophysiology and identifies potential therapeutic targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Claudin-1 / genetics
  • Claudin-1 / metabolism
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / complications
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / metabolism*
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / pathology*
  • ELAV-Like Protein 1 / metabolism*
  • Glucose / toxicity
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta / metabolism
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Interleukin-17 / genetics
  • Interleukin-17 / metabolism
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Models, Biological
  • Podocytes / metabolism*
  • Podocytes / pathology*
  • Podocytes / ultrastructure
  • Proteinuria / complications
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Streptozocin
  • Thiadiazoles
  • Tristetraprolin / metabolism*


  • 4-benzyl-2-methyl-1,2,4-thiadiazolidine-3,5-dione
  • Claudin-1
  • ELAV-Like Protein 1
  • Interleukin-17
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Thiadiazoles
  • Tristetraprolin
  • Streptozocin
  • Glycogen Synthase Kinase 3 beta
  • Glucose