Kidney fibrosis following kidney injury is an unresolved health problem and causes significant morbidity and mortality worldwide. In a study into its molecular mechanism, we identified essential causative features. Acute or chronic kidney injury causes sustained elevation of a disintegrin and metalloprotease 17 (ADAM17); of its cleavage-activated proligand substrates, in particular of pro-TNFα and the EGFR ligand amphiregulin (pro-AREG); and of the substrates’ receptors. As a consequence, EGFR is persistently activated and triggers the synthesis and release of proinflammatory and profibrotic factors, resulting in macrophage/neutrophil ingress and fibrosis. ADAM17 hypomorphic mice, specific ADAM17 inhibitor–treated WT mice, or mice with inducible KO of ADAM17 in proximal tubule (Slc34a1-Cre) were significantly protected against these effects. In vitro, in proximal tubule cells, we show that AREG has unique profibrotic actions that are potentiated by TNFα-induced AREG cleavage. In vivo, in acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD, fibrosis) patients, soluble AREG is indeed highly upregulated in human urine, and both ADAM17 and AREG expression show strong positive correlation with fibrosis markers in related kidney biopsies. Our results indicate that targeting of the ADAM17 pathway represents a therapeutic target for human kidney fibrosis.
Eirini Kefaloyianni, Muthu Lakshmi Muthu, Jakob Kaeppler, Xiaoming Sun, Venkata Sabbisetti, Athena Chalaris, Stefan Rose-John, Eitan Wong, Irit Sagi, Sushrut S. Waikar, Helmut Rennke, Benjamin D. Humphreys, Joseph V. Bonventre, Andreas Herrlich