Proteinuria is a central component of chronic kidney disease and an independent risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Kidney podocytes have an essential role as a filtration barrier against proteinuria. Kruppel-like Factor 4 (KLF4) is expressed in podocytes and decreased in glomerular diseases leading to methylation of the nephrin promoter, decreased nephrin expression and proteinuria. Treatment with an angiotensin receptor blocker (ARB) reduced methylation of the nephrin promoter in murine glomeruli of an adriamycin nephropathy model with recovery of KLF4 expression and a decrease in albuminuria. In podocyte-specific KLF4 knockout mice, the effect of ARB on albuminuria and the nephrin promoter methylation was attenuated. In cultured human podocytes, angiotensin II reduced KLF4 expression and caused methylation of the nephrin promoter with decreased nephrin expression. In patients, nephrin promoter methylation was increased in proteinuric kidney diseases with decreased KLF4 and nephrin expression. KLF4 expression in ARB-treated patients was higher in patients with than without ARB treatment. Thus, angiotensin II can modulate epigenetic regulation in podocytes and ARB inhibits these actions in part via KLF4 in proteinuric kidney diseases. This study provides a new concept that renin-angiotensin system blockade can exert therapeutic effects through epigenetic modulation of the kidney gene expression.
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