Instructive role of the microenvironment in preventing renal fibrosis

Kei Matsumoto, Sandhya Xavier, Jun Chen, Yujiro Kida, Mark Lipphardt, Reina Ikeda, Annie Gevertz, Mario Caviris, Antonis K. Hatzopoulos, Ivo Kalajzic, James Dutton, Brian B. Ratliff, Hong Zhao, Zbygniew Darzynkiewicz, Stefan Rose-John, Michael S. Goligorsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Accumulation of myofibroblasts is a hallmark of renal fibrosis. A significant proportion ofmyofibroblasts has been reported to originate via endothelial-mesenchymal transition. We initially hypothesized that exposingmyofibroblasts to the extractof endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) could reverse this transition. Indeed, in vitro treatment of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1)-activated fibroblastswith EPC extract prevented expressionofα-smooth muscleactin(α-SMA);however, itdidnotenhanceexpressionof endothelial markers. In two distinctmodels of renal fibrosis—unilateral ureteral obstruction and chronic phase of folic acid-induced nephropathy—subcapsular injection of EPC extract to the kidney prevented and reversed accumulation of α-SMA-positivemyofibroblasts and reduced fibrosis. Screening the composition of EPC extract for cytokines revealed that it is enriched in leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) and vascular endothelial growth factor. Only LIF was capable of reducing fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transition of TGF-β1-activated fibroblasts. In vivo subcapsular administration of LIF reduced the number of myofibroblasts and improved the density of peritubular capillaries; however, it did not reduce the degree of fibrosis. A receptor-independent ligand for the gp130/STAT3 pathway, hyperinterleukin- 6 (hyper-IL-6), not only induced a robust downstream increase in pluripotency factors Nanog and c-Myc but also exhibited a powerful antifibrotic effect. In conclusion, EPC extract prevented and reversed fibroblast-to-myofibroblast transition and renal fibrosis. The component of EPC extract, LIF, was capable of preventing development of the contractile phenotype of activated fibroblasts but did not eliminate TGF-β1-induced collagen synthesis in cultured fibroblasts and models of renal fibrosis,whereas a receptor-independent gp130/STAT3 agonist, hyper-IL-6, prevented fibrosis. In summary, these studies, through the evolution from EPC extract to LIF and then to hyper-IL-6, demonstrate the instructive role ofmicroenvironmental cues andmay provide in the future a facile strategy to prevent and reverse renal fibrosis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)992-1005
Number of pages14
JournalStem Cells Translational Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Studies in the authors’ laboratory were supported by NIH Grants DK54602, DK052783, and DK45462 (M.S.G.);American Heart Association Grant 12SDG9080006 and American Society of Nephrology Grant 010973-101 (B.B.R.); and The New York Community Trust- Renal Experimental and Clinical Fund. S.R.-J. was supported by grants from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (SFB 877, project A1, SFB 841, project C1) and the Cluster of Excellence “Inflammation at Interfaces.”

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Authors.


  • Green fluorescent protein
  • Hyper-interleukin-6
  • Leukemia inhibitory factor
  • Transforming growth factor-β1
  • α-Smooth muscle actin


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