Response gene to complement 32 is essential for fibroblast activation in renal fibrosis

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of Biological Chemistry








Response gene to complement 32 (RGC-32) is a downstream target of transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β). TGF-β is known to play a pathogenic role in renal fibrosis. In this study, we investigated RGC-32 function in renal fibrosis following unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) in mice, a model of progressive tubulointerstitial fibrosis. RGC-32 is normally expressed only in blood vessels of mouse kidney. However, UUO induces RGC-32 expression in renal interstitial cells at the early stage of kidney injury, suggesting that RGC-32 is involved in interstitial fibroblast activation. Indeed, expression of smooth muscle α-actin (α-SMA), an indicator of fibroblast activation, is limited to the interstitial cells at the early stage, and became apparent later in both interstitial and tubular cells. RGC-32 knockdown by shRNA significantly inhibits UUO-induced renal structural damage, α-SMA expression and collagen deposition, suggesting that RGC-32 is essential for the onset of renal interstitial fibrosis. In vitro studies indicate that RGC-32 mediates TGF-β-induced fibroblast activation. Mechanistically, RGC-32 interacts with Smad3 and enhances Smad3 binding to the Smad binding element in α-SMA promoter as demonstrated by DNA affinity assay. In the chromatin setting, Smad3, but not Smad2, binds to α-SMA promoter in fibroblasts. RGC-32 appears to be essential for Smad3 interaction with the promoters of fibroblast activation-related genes in vivo. Functionally, RGC-32 is crucial for Smad3-mediated α-SMA promoter activity. Taken together, we identify RGC-32 as a novel fibrogenic factor contributing to the pathogenesis of renal fibrosis through fibroblast activation. © 2011 by The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Inc.