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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Gremlin induces cell proliferation and extra cellular matrix accumulation in mouse mesangial cells exposed to high glucose via the ERK1/2 pathway

Haixia Huang12, Haiying Huang3, Ying Li1*, Maodong Liu1, Yonghong Shi4, Yanqing Chi1 and Tao Zhang1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Nephropathy, The Third Hospital of Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang 050051, China

2 Hebei Provincial Hospital of Armed Police, Shijiazhuang, 050081, China

3 Bethune Military Medical College of PLA, Shijiazhuang, 050081, China

4 Department of Pathology, Hebei Medical University, Shijiazhuang, 050017, China

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BMC Nephrology 2013, 14:33  doi:10.1186/1471-2369-14-33

Published: 11 February 2013

Abstract

Background

Gremlin, a bone morphogenetic protein antagonist, plays an important role in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy (DN). However, the specific molecular mechanism underlying Gremlin’s involvement in DN has not been fully elucidated. In the present study, we investigated the role of Gremlin on cell proliferation and accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) in mouse mesangial cells (MMCs), and explored the relationship between Gremlin and the ERK1/2 pathway.

Methods

To determine expression of Gremlin in MMCs after high glucose (HG) exposure, Gremlin mRNA and protein expression were evaluated using real-time polymerase chain reaction and western blot analysis, respectively. To determine the role of Gremlin on cell proliferation and accumulation of ECM, western blot analysis was used to assess expression of pERK1/2, transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF). Cell proliferation was examined by bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) ELISA, and accumulation of collagen IV was measured using a radioimmunoassay. This enabled the relationship between Gremlin and ERK1/2 pathway activation to be investigated.

Results

HG exposure induced expression of Gremlin, which peaked 12 h after HG exposure. HG exposure alone or transfection of normal-glucose (NG) exposed MMCs with Gremlin plasmid (NG + P) increased cell proliferation. Transfection with Gremlin plasmid into MMCs previously exposed to HG (HG + P) significantly increased this HG-induced phenomenon. HG and NG + P conditions up-regulated protein levels of TGF-β1, CTGF and collagen IV accumulation, while HG + P significantly increased levels of these further. Inhibition of Gremlin with Gremlin siRNA plasmid reversed the HG-induced phenomena. These data indicate that Gremlin can induce cell proliferation and accumulation of ECM in MMCs. HG also induced the activation of the ERK1/2 pathway, which peaked 24 h after HG exposure. HG and NG + P conditions induced overexpression of pERK1/2, whilst HG + P significantly induced levels further. Inhibition of Gremlin by Gremlin siRNA plasmid reversed the HG-induced phenomena. This indicates Gremlin can induce activation of the ERK1/2 pathway in MMCs.

Conclusion

Culture of MMCs in the presence of HG up-regulates expression of Gremlin. Gremlin induces cell proliferation and accumulation of ECM in MMCs. and enhances activation of the ERK1/2 pathway.

Keywords:
High glucose; Gremlin; ERK1/2; Cell proliferation; Transfection; Glomerular mesangial cells