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Fate tracing reveals the pericyte and not epithelial origin of myofibroblasts in kidney fibrosis.

Understanding the origin of myofibroblasts in kidney is of great interest because these cells are responsible for scar formation in fibrotic kidney disease. Recent studies suggest epithelial cells are an important source of myofibroblasts through a process described as the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; however, confirmatory studies in vivo are lacking. To quantitatively assess the contribution of renal epithelial cells to myofibroblasts, we used Cre/Lox techniques to genetically label and fate map renal epithelia in models of kidney fibrosis. Genetically labeled primary proximal epithelial cells cultured in vitro from these mice readily induce markers of myofibroblasts after transforming growth factor beta(1) treatment. However, using either red fluorescent protein or beta-galactosidase as fate markers, we found no evidence that epithelial cells migrate outside of the tubular basement membrane and differentiate into interstitial myofibroblasts in vivo. Thus, although renal epithelial cells can acquire mesenchymal markers in vitro, they do not directly contribute to interstitial myofibroblast cells in vivo. Lineage analysis shows that during nephrogenesis, FoxD1-positive((+)) mesenchymal cells give rise to adult CD73(+), platelet derived growth factor receptor beta(+), smooth muscle actin-negative interstitial pericytes, and these FoxD1-derivative interstitial cells expand and differentiate into smooth muscle actin(+) myofibroblasts during fibrosis, accounting for a large majority of myofibroblasts. These data indicate that therapeutic strategies directly targeting pericyte differentiation in vivo may productively impact fibrotic kidney disease.

Pubmed ID: 20008127


  • Humphreys BD
  • Lin SL
  • Kobayashi A
  • Hudson TE
  • Nowlin BT
  • Bonventre JV
  • Valerius MT
  • McMahon AP
  • Duffield JS


The American journal of pathology

Publication Data

January 30, 2010

Associated Grants

  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK054364
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK073299
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK073628
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK084077
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: DK87389
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: K08 DK073628
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: K08 DK073628-04
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: R01 DK072381
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: R01 DK088923
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: R03 DK084316
  • Agency: NIDDK NIH HHS, Id: R03 DK084316-01

Mesh Terms

  • Actins
  • Animals
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cell Movement
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Epithelial Cells
  • Fibroblasts
  • Fibrosis
  • Forkhead Transcription Factors
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • Integrases
  • Kidney
  • Kidney Tubules
  • Mesoderm
  • Mice
  • Pericytes
  • Promoter Regions, Genetic
  • S100 Proteins
  • Transcription Factors
  • Up-Regulation