Epithelial injury and tubulointerstitial fibrosis (TIF) within a hypoxic microenvironment are associated with progressive loss of renal function in chronic kidney disease [CKD]. Transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGF-β1) is an important mediator of renal fibrosis. Growing evidence suggests that Vitamin D [1,25-(OH)2D] and its analogues may have a renoprotective effect in CKD. Here we examined the protective effect of the vitamin D analogue paricalcitol [PC; 19-nor-1α,3β,25-trihydroxy-9,10-secoergosta-5(Z),7(E) 22(E)-triene] on the responses of human renal epithelial cells to TGF-β1. PC attenuated TGF-β1-induced Smad 2 phosphorylation and upregulation of the Notch ligand Jagged-1, α-smooth muscle actin and thrombospondin-1 and prevented the TGF-β1-mediated loss of E-Cadherin. To mimic the hypoxic milieu of CKD we cultured renal epithelial cells in hypoxia [1% O2] and observed similar attenuation by PC of TGF-β1-induced fibrotic responses. Furthermore, in cells cultured in normoxia [21% O2], PC induced an accumulation of hypoxia-inducible transcription factors (HIF) 1α and HIF-2α in a time and concentration [1 µM-2 µM] dependent manner. Here, PC-induced HIF stabilisation was dependent on activation of the PI-3Kinase pathway. This is the first study to demonstrate regulation of the HIF pathway by PC which may have importance in the mechanism underlying renoprotection by PC.
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