Role of connective tissue growth factor in fibronectin expression and tubulointerstitial fibrosis

Hideki Yokoi, Masashi Mukoyama, Akira Sugawara, Kiyoshi Mori, Tetsuya Nagae, Hisashi Makino, Takayoshi Suganami, Kensei Yahata, Yuriko Fujinaga, Issei Tanaka, Kazuwa Nakao
American Journal of Physiology. Renal Physiology 2002, 282 (5): F933-42
Connective tissue growth factor (CTGF) is one of the candidate factors mediating downstream events of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta), but its role in fibrogenic properties of TGF-beta and in tubulointerstitial fibrosis has not yet been clarified. Using unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) in rats, we analyzed gene expression of TGF-beta1, CTGF, and fibronectin. We further investigated the effect of blockade of endogenous CTGF on TGF-beta-induced fibronectin expression in cultured rat renal fibroblasts by antisense oligodeoxynucleotide (ODN) treatment. After UUO, CTGF mRNA expression in the obstructed kidney was significantly upregulated subsequent to TGF-beta1, followed by marked induction of fibronectin mRNA. By in situ hybridization, CTGF mRNA was detected mainly in the interstitial fibrotic areas and tubular epithelial cells as well as in parietal glomerular epithelial cells in the obstructed kidney. The interstitial cells expressing CTGF mRNA were also positive for alpha-smooth muscle actin. CTGF antisense ODN transfected into cultured renal fibroblasts significantly attenuated TGF-beta-stimulated upregulation of fibronectin mRNA and protein compared with control ODN transfection, together with inhibited synthesis of type I collagen. With the use of a reporter assay, rat fibronectin promoter activity was increased by 2.5-fold with stimulation by TGF-beta1, and this increase was abolished with antisense CTGF treatment. Thus CTGF plays a crucial role in fibronectin synthesis induced by TGF-beta, suggesting that CTGF blockade could be a possible therapeutic target against tubulointerstitial fibrosis.

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