Congenital obstructive nephropathy is a major cause of renal insufficiency in children. Osteopontin (OPN) is a phosphoprotein produced by the kidney that mediates cell adhesion and migration. We investigated the role of OPN in the renal response to unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) in neonatal mice. OPN null mutant (-/-) and wild-type (+/+) mice were subjected to sham operation or UUO within the first 2 days of life. At 7 and 21 days of age, fibroblasts (fibroblast-specific protein (FSP)-1), myofibroblasts (α-smooth muscle actin (SMA)), and macrophages (F4/80) were identified by immunohistochemical staining. Apoptotic cells were detected by terminal deoxy transferase uridine triphosphate nick end-labeling technique and interstitial collagen by Masson trichrome or picrosirius red stain. Compared to sham-operated or contralateral kidneys, obstructed kidneys showed increases in all parameters by 7 days, with further increases by 21 days. After 21 days UUO, there was an increase in tubular and interstitial apoptosis in OPN -/- mice as compared to +/+ animals (P<0.05). However, FSP-1- and α-SMA-positive cells and collagen in the obstructed kidney were decreased in OPN -/- compared to +/+ mice (P<0.05), whereas the interstitial macrophage population did not differ between groups. We conclude that OPN plays a significant role in the recruitment and activation of interstitial fibroblasts to myofibroblasts in the progression of interstitial fibrosis in the developing hydronephrotic kidney. However, OPN also suppresses apoptosis. Future approaches to limit the progression of obstructive nephropathy in the developing kidney 1will require targeting of specific renal compartments.
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