Chronic allograft dysfunction is a major cause of late graft failure after kidney transplantation. One of the histological changes is interstitial fibrosis, which is associated with epithelial–mesenchymal transition. Bortezomib has been reported to prevent the progression of fibrosis in organs. We used rat renal transplantation model and human kidney 2 cell line treated with tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) to examine their response to bortezomib. To explore the mechanism behind it, we assessed the previously studied TNF-α/protein kinase B (Akt)/Smad ubiquitin regulatory factor 2 (Smurf2) signaling and performed RNA sequencing. Our results suggested that bortezomib could attenuate the TNF-α-induced epithelial–mesenchymal transition and renal allograft interstitial fibrosis in vitro and in vivo. In addition to blocking Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR)/p70S6 kinase/Smurf2 signaling, bortezomib’s effect on the epithelial–mesenchymal transition was associated with inhibition of nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB) pathway by stabilizing inhibitor of NF-κB. The study highlighted the therapeutic potential of bortezomib on renal allograft interstitial fibrosis. Such an effect may result from inhibition of NF-κB/TNF-α/Akt/mTOR/p70S6 kinase/Smurf2 signaling via stabilizing protein of inhibitor of NF-κB.

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