Recent studies implicate Wnt/β-catenin signaling in podocyte dysfunction. Because vitamin D analogs can inhibit β-catenin in other tissues, we tested whether the vitamin D analog paricalcitol could ameliorate podocyte injury, proteinuria, and renal fibrosis in adriamycin (ADR) nephropathy. Compared with vehicle-treated controls, paricalcitol preserved expression of nephrin, podocin, and WT1; prevented proteinuria; and reduced glomerulosclerotic lesions induced by ADR. Paricalcitol also inhibited expression of proinflammatory cytokines, reduced renal infiltration of monocytes/macrophages, hampered activation of renal myofibroblasts, and suppressed expression of the fibrogenic TGF-β1, CTGF, fibronectin, and types I and III collagen. Selective suppression of renal Wnt4, Wnt7a, Wnt7b, and Wnt10a expression after ADR accompanied these renoprotective effects of paricalcitol. Significant upregulation of β-catenin, predominantly in podocytes and tubular epithelial cells, accompanied renal injury; paricalcitol largely abolished this induction of renal β-catenin and inhibited renal expression of Snail, a downstream effector of Wnt/β-catenin signaling. Administration of paricalcitol also ameliorated established proteinuria. In vitro, paricalcitol induced a physical interaction between the vitamin D receptor and β-catenin in podocytes, which led to suppression of β-catenin-mediated gene transcription. In summary, these findings suggest that paricalcitol prevents podocyte dysfunction, proteinuria, and kidney injury in adriamycin nephropathy by inhibiting Wnt/β-catenin signaling.
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