Mature tubular epithelial cells in the adult kidney can undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a phenotypic change that is linked to the pathogenesis of renal interstitial fibrosis. EMT may be considered the reverse of mesenchymal-epithelial transition, which occurs during normal kidney development. The Wilms' tumor suppressor gene WT1 and the paired box 2 gene Pax2 are needed to induce mesenchymal-epithelial transition and play key roles in the progression of nephrogenesis. However, until now, WT1 and Pax2 have not been tested for their direct involvement in the process of renal tubular EMT. In this study, we explored the potential roles of WT1 and Pax2 in EMT that is induced in the remnant kidney of rats following 5/6 nephrectomy. We also examined WT1 and Pax2 in cultured renal tubular epithelial (NRK52E) cells treated with interleukin-1α and investigated the effects of blocking EMT using RNA interference. We showed that WT1 and Pax2 were re-expressed in the EMT models, and these were accompanied by decreased expression of E-cadherin and increased expression of vimentin, Snail and α-smooth muscle actin. Silencing WT1 and Pax2 by RNA interference blocked the interleukin-1α-induced EMT in the NRK52E cells, as reflected in the suppression of α-SMA and Snail expression, the restoration of E-cadherin expression and normal cell morphology. Our experiments suggested that the re-expression of WT1 and Pax2 in the tubular epithelial cells plays important roles in the promotion of EMT, and there may be therapeutic value in silencing Pax2 and WT1 to prevent or reverse renal fibrosis.
Copyright © 2011 S. Karger AG, Basel