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AIMS: Regression of albuminuria and renal fibrosis occurs in patients with diabetic nephropathy (DN) following tight control of blood glucose and blood pressure, however the pathways that promote regression remain poorly understood and we wished to characterise these using a rodent model.
METHODS: Diabetes was induced with streptozotocin in Cyp1a1mRen2 rats and hypertension was generated by inducing renin transgene expression with dietary indole-3-carbinol (I-3-C) for 28wks. At this point an 'injury cohort' was culled, while in a 'reversal cohort' glycaemia was tightly controlled using insulin implants and blood pressure normalised by withdrawing dietary I-3-C for a further 8wks. Pathways activated during and following reversal of diabetes and hypertension were assessed by microarray profiling.
RESULTS: Tight control of blood glucose and blood pressure reduced albuminuria and renal hypertrophy, but had no impact on renal fibrosis. 85 genes were up-regulated specifically during the injury phase, including genes encoding multiple myofibroblast and extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins. Conversely, 314 genes remained persistently elevated during reversal including genes linked to innate/adaptive immunity, phagocytosis, lysosomal processing and degradative metalloproteinases (MMPs). Despite increased MMP gene expression, MMP activity was suppressed during both injury and reversal, in association with up-regulation of tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase-1 (TIMP-1) protein. Physical separation of the TIMP-1/MMP complexes during zymography of tissue homogenate restored MMP activity.
CONCLUSION: Normalisation of blood glucose and pressure ameliorates albuminuria and inhibits excess ECM production, however persistent TIMP-1 expression hinders attempts at ECM remodelling. Therapies which counteract the action of TIMPs may accelerate scar resolution.