Matrix protein Tenascin-C promotes kidney fibrosis via STAT3 activation in response to tubular injury

Cell Death Dis. 2022 Dec 15;13(12):1044. doi: 10.1038/s41419-022-05496-z.


Accumulating evidence indicates that the extracellular matrix (ECM) is not only a consequence of fibrosis, but also contributes to the progression of fibrosis, by creating a profibrotic microenvironment. Tenascin-C (TNC) is an ECM glycoprotein that contains multiple functional domains. We showed that following kidney injury, TNC was markedly induced in fibrotic areas in the kidney from both mouse models and humans with kidney diseases. Genetically deletion of TNC in mice significantly attenuated unilateral ureteral obstruction-induced kidney fibrosis. Further studies showed that TNC promoted the proliferation of kidney interstitial cells via STAT3 activation. TNC-expressing cells in fibrotic kidney were activated fibroblast 2 (Act.Fib2) subpopulation, according to a previously generated single nucleus RNA-seq dataset profiling kidney of mouse UUO model at day 14. To identify and characterize TNC-expressing cells, we generated a TNC-promoter-driven CreER2-IRES-eGFP knock-in mouse line and found that the TNC reporter eGFP was markedly induced in cells around injured tubules that had lost epithelial markers, suggesting TNC was induced in response to epithelium injury. Most of the eGFP-positive cells were both NG2 and PDGFRβ positive. These cells did not carry markers of progenitor cells or macrophages. In conclusion, this study provides strong evidence that matrix protein TNC contributes to kidney fibrosis. TNC pathway may serve as a potential therapeutic target for interstitial fibrosis and the progression of chronic kidney disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney Diseases* / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Protein C / metabolism
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Tenascin / genetics
  • Tenascin / metabolism
  • Ureteral Obstruction* / metabolism


  • Tenascin
  • Protein C
  • STAT3 protein, human
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor