Indexed on: 11 Jan '20Published on: 05 Jan '20Published in: Cells
Tubulointerstitial fibrosis is a major pathological hallmark of diabetic nephropathy. Increasing evidence has shown that epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) of renal proximal tubular cells plays a crucial role in tubulointerstitial fibrosis. Herein, we aimed to elucidate the detailed mechanism of EMT in renal tubular cells under high glucose (HG) conditions, and to investigate the potential of licorice, a medicinal herb, to inhibit HG-induced EMT. Our results showed that renal tubular epithelial cells (normal rat kidney cell clone 52E; NRK-52E) exposed to HG resulted in EMT induction characterized by increased fibronectin and -SMA (alpha-smooth muscle actin) but decreased E-cadherin. Elevated levels of cleaved Notch2, MAML-1 (mastermind-like transcriptional coactivator 1), nicastrin, Jagged-1 and Delta-like 1 were also concomitantly detected in HG-cultured cells. Importantly, pharmacological inhibition, small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated depletion or overexpression of the key components of Notch2 signaling in NRK-52E cells supported that the activated Notch2 pathway is essential for tubular EMT. Moreover, we found that licorice extract (LE) with or without glycyrrhizin, one of bioactive components in licorice, effectively blocked HG-triggered EMT in NRK-52E cells, mainly through suppressing the Notch2 pathway. Our findings therefore suggest that Notch2-mediated renal tubular EMT could be a therapeutic target in diabetic nephropathy, and both LE and de-glycyrrhizinated LE could have therapeutic potential to attenuate renal tubular EMT and fibrosis.