Crosstalk between transforming growth factor-β1 and endoplasmic reticulum stress regulates alpha-smooth muscle cell actin expression in podocytes

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Aims:Transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) plays a significant role in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Furthermore, endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress also can induce EMT. However, the relationship among TGF-β1, ER stress and EMT in podocytes is still unclear. Consequently, this study examines the crosstalk effect between TGF-β1 and ER stress on the regulation of EMT.Main methods:The mRNA of EMT marker (α-smooth muscle actin: α-SMA) was evaluated by quantitative real-time PCR. In addition, the protein expressions of α-SMA and three ER stress biomarkers (glucose-regulated protein 78: GRP78; eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2α: eIF2α; CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein-homologous protein: CHOP) were evaluated by Western blot.Key findings:TGF-β1 increased the ER stress response biomarkers (GRP78, p-eIF2α/eIF2α and CHOP) and mRNA and protein levels of α-SMA in podocytes. Furthermore, ER stress inducer (thapsigargin) increased α-SMA protein expression. ER stress inhibitor (4-phenylbutyrate) attenuated the ER stress response and α-SMA protein expression under treatment with TGF-β1. Among the various TGF-β1 down-stream pathway inhibitors considered in the present study (SIS3: inhibitor of Smad2/3; U0126: inhibitor of MEK/ERK; SB203580: inhibitor of p38), SIS3 greatly attenuated the ER stress response biomarker (GRP78) under treatment with TGF-β1. SIS3, U0126 and SB203580 all partly attenuated α-SMA mRNA expression under TGF-β1 treatment. However, only SIS3 attenuated α-SMA protein expression.Significance:The present results confirm that ER stress induces α-SMA protein expression in podocytes. Furthermore, TGF-β1 mainly regulates ER stress and α-SMA protein expression through the Smad2/3 pathway. Therefore, ER stress and TGF-β1 may synergistically induce podocytes to undergo EMT.Graphical abstractTGF-β1 increases α-SMA (a biomarker of epithelial-mesenchymal transition) expression and induces and ER stress response through Smad2/3 pathway in podocytes. The ER stress-induced by TGF-β1 further promotes α-SMA expression.

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