Renal tubular atrophy and interstitial fibrosis are common hallmarks of etiologically different progressive chronic kidney diseases (CKD) that eventually result in organ failure. Even though these pathological manifestations constitute a major public health problem, diagnostic tests, as well as therapeutic options, are currently limited. Members of the dickkopf (DKK) family, DKK1 and -2, have been associated with inhibition of Wnt signaling and organ fibrosis. Here, we identify DKK3 as a stress-induced, tubular epithelia–derived, secreted glycoprotein that mediates kidney fibrosis. Genetic as well as antibody-mediated abrogation of DKK3 led to reduced tubular atrophy and decreased interstitial matrix accumulation in two mouse models of renal fibrosis. This was facilitated by an amplified, antifibrogenic, inflammatory T cell response and diminished canonical Wnt/β-catenin signaling in stressed tubular epithelial cells. Moreover, in humans, urinary DKK3 levels specifically correlated with the extent of tubular atrophy and interstitial fibrosis in different glomerular and tubulointerstitial diseases. In summary, our data suggest that DKK3 constitutes an immunosuppressive and a profibrotic epithelial protein that might serve as a potential therapeutic target and diagnostic marker in renal fibrosis.
Giuseppina Federico, Michael Meister, Daniel Mathow, Gunnar H. Heine, Gerhard Moldenhauer, Zoran V. Popovic, Viola Nordström, Annette Kopp-Schneider, Thomas Hielscher, Peter J. Nelson, Franz Schaefer, Stefan Porubsky, Danilo Fliser, Bernd Arnold, Hermann-Josef Gröne
TECs are the predominant source of profibrotic dickkopf 3 (DKK3) in the kidney.