Heparanase: A Potential New Factor Involved in the Renal Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition (EMT) Induced by Ischemia/Reperfusion (I/R) Injury

Background

Ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) is an important cause of acute renal failure and delayed graft function, and it may induce chronic renal damage by activating epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) of renal tubular cells. Heparanase (HPSE), an endoglycosidase that regulates FGF-2 and TGFβ-induced EMT, may have an important role. Therefore, aim of this study was to evaluate its role in the I/R-induced renal pro-fibrotic machinery by employing in vitro and in vivo models.

Methods

Wild type (WT) and HPSE-silenced renal tubular cells were subjected to hypoxia and reoxygenation in the presence or absence of SST0001, an inhibitor of HPSE. In vivo, I/R injury was induced by bilateral clamping of renal arteries for 30 min in transgenic mice over-expressing HPSE (HPA-tg) and in their WT littermates. Mice were sacrificed 48 and 72 h after I/R. Gene and protein EMT markers (α-SMA, VIM and FN) were evaluated by bio-molecular and histological methodologies.

Results

In vitro: hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R) significantly increased the expression of EMT-markers in WT, but not in HPSE-silenced tubular cells. Notably, EMT was prevented in WT cells by SST0001 treatment. In vivo: I/R induced a remarkable up-regulation of EMT markers in HPA-tg mice after 48–72 h. Noteworthy, these effects were absent in WT animals.

Conclusions

In conclusion, our results add new insights towards understanding the renal biological mechanisms activated by I/R and they demonstrate, for the first time, that HPSE is a pivotal factor involved in the onset and development of I/R-induced EMT. It is plausible that in future the inhibition of this endoglycosidase may represent a new therapeutic approach to minimize/prevent fibrosis and slow down chronic renal disease progression in native and transplanted kidneys.