The zebrafish foxj1a transcription factor regulates cilia function in response to injury and epithelial stretch.
Cilia are essential for normal organ function and developmental patterning, but their role in injury and regeneration responses is unknown. To probe the role of cilia in injury, we analyzed the function of foxj1, a transcriptional regulator of cilia genes, in response to tissue damage and renal cyst formation. Zebrafish foxj1a, but not foxj1b, was rapidly induced in response to epithelial distension and stretch, kidney cyst formation, acute kidney injury by gentamicin, and crush injury in spinal cord cells. Obstruction-induced up-regulation of foxj1a was not inhibited by cycloheximide, identifying foxj1a as a primary response gene to epithelial injury. Foxj1 was also dramatically up-regulated in murine cystic kidney disease epithelia [jck/jck (nek8) and Ift88Tg737Rpw(-/-)] as well as in response to kidney ischemia-reperfusion injury. Obstruction of the zebrafish pronephric tubule caused a rapid increase in cilia beat rate that correlated tightly with expanded tubule diameter and epithelial stretch. Zebrafish foxj1a was specifically required for cilia motility. Enhanced foxj1a expression in obstructed tubules induced cilia motility target genes efhc1, tektin-1, and dnahc9. foxj1a-deficient embryos failed to up-regulate efhc1, tektin-1, and dnahc9 and could not maintain enhanced cilia beat rates after obstruction, identifying an essential role for foxj1 in modulating cilia function after injury. These studies reveal that activation of a Foxj1 transcriptional network of ciliogenic genes is an evolutionarily conserved response to multiple forms of tissue damage and highlight enhanced cilia function as a previously uncharacterized component of organ homeostasis.