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Pax protein depletion in proximal tubules triggers conserved mechanisms of resistance to acute ischemic kidney injury preventing transition to chronic kidney disease.

Kidney International 2023 November 18
Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a common condition that lacks effective treatments. In part, this shortcoming is due to an incomplete understanding of the genetic mechanisms that control pathogenesis and recovery. Identifying the molecular and genetic regulators unique to nephron segments that dictate vulnerability to injury and regenerative potential could lead to new therapeutic targets to treat ischemic kidney injury. Pax2 and Pax8 are homologous transcription factors with overlapping functions that are critical for kidney development and are re-activated in AKI. Here, we examined the role of Pax2 and Pax8 in recovery from ischemic AKI and found them upregulated after severe AKI and correlated with chronic injury. Surprisingly, proximal-tubule-selective deletion of Pax2 and Pax8 resulted in a less severe chronic injury phenotype. This effect was mediated by protection against the acute insult, similar to pre-conditioning. Prior to injury, Pax2 and Pax8 mutant mice develop a unique subpopulation of proximal tubule cells in the S3 segment that displayed features usually seen only in acute or chronic injury. The expression signature of these cells was strongly enriched with genes associated with other mechanisms of protection against ischemic AKI including caloric restriction, hypoxic pre-conditioning, and female sex. Thus, our results identified a novel role for Pax2 and Pax8 in mature proximal tubules that regulates critical genes and pathways involved in both the injury response and protection from ischemic AKI.

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