Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process which describes the trans-differentiation of epithelial cells into motile mesenchymal cells, is pivotal in stem cell behavior, development and wound healing, as well as contributing to disease processes including fibrosis and cancer progression. Maintenance immunosuppression with calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) has become routine management for renal transplant patient, but unfortunately the nephrotoxicity of these drugs has been well documented. HK-2 cells were exposed to Tacrolimus (FK506) and EMT markers were assessed by RT PCR and western blot. FK506 effects on TGF-β mRNA were assessed by RT PCR and TGF-β secretion was measured by ELISA. The impact of increased TGF-β secretion on Smad signaling pathways was investigated. The impact of inhibition of TGF-β signaling on EMT processes was assessed by scratch-wound assay. The results presented in this study suggest that FK506 initiates EMT processes in the HK-2 cell line, with altered expression of epithelial and myofibroblast markers evident. Additionally, the study demonstrates that FK506 activation of the TGF-β/ SMAD pathways is an essential step in the EMT process. Overall the results demonstrate that EMT is heavily involved in renal fibrosis associated with CNI nephrotoxicity.
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- Epithelial-mesenchymal transition