Chronic Stimulation of Renin Cells Leads to Vascular Pathology

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Abstract

Experimental or spontaneous genomic mutations of the renin–angiotensin system or its pharmacological inhibition in early life leads to renal abnormalities, including poorly developed renal medulla, papillary atrophy, hydronephrosis, inability to concentrate the urine, polyuria, polydipsia, renal failure, and anemia. At the core of such complex phenotype is the presence of unique vascular abnormalities: the renal arterioles do not branch or elongate properly and they have disorganized, concentric hypertrophy. This lesion has been puzzling because it is often found in hypertensive individuals whereas mutant or pharmacologically inhibited animals are hypotensive. Remarkably, when renin cells are ablated with diphtheria toxin, the vascular hypertrophy does not occur, suggesting that renin cells per se may contribute to the vascular disease. To test this hypothesis, on a Ren1c−/− background, we generated mutant mice with reporter expression (Ren1c−/−;Ren1c-Cre;R26R.mTmG and Ren1c−/−;Ren1c-Cre;R26R.LacZ) to trace the fate of reninnull cells. To assess whether reninnull cells maintain their renin promoter active, we used Ren1c−/−;Ren1c-YFP mice that transcribe YFP (yellow fluorescent protein) directed by the renin promoter. We also followed the expression of Akr1b7 and miR-330-5p, markers of cells programmed for the renin phenotype. Contrary to what we expected, reninnull cells did not die or disappear. Instead, they survived, increased in number along the renal arterial tree, and maintained an active molecular memory of the myoepitheliod renin phenotype. Furthermore, null cells of the renin lineage occupied the walls of the arteries and arterioles in a chaotic, directionless pattern directly contributing to the concentric arterial hypertrophy.

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