Retinoic acid receptor (RAR) signaling is essential for mammalian kidney development but, in the adult kidney, is restricted to occasional collecting duct epithelial cells. We now show that there is widespread reactivation of RAR signaling in proximal tubular epithelial cells (PTECs) in human sepsis-associated acute kidney injury (AKI) and in mouse models of AKI. Genetic inhibition of RAR signaling in PTECs protected against experimental AKI but was unexpectedly associated with increased expression of the PTEC injury marker Kim1. However, the protective effects of inhibiting PTEC RAR signaling were associated with increased Kim1-dependent apoptotic cell clearance, or efferocytosis, and this was associated with dedifferentiation, proliferation, and metabolic reprogramming of PTECs. These data demonstrate the functional role that reactivation of RAR signaling plays in regulating PTEC differentiation and function in human and experimental AKI.
Min Yang, Lauren N. Lopez, Maya Brewer, Rachel Delgado, Anna Menshikh, Kelly Clouthier, Yuantee Zhu, Thitinee Vanichapol, Haichun Yang, Raymond C. Harris, Leslie Gewin, Craig R. Brooks, Alan J. Davidson, Mark de Caestecker