Neutral endopeptidase inhibitors blunt kidney fibrosis by reducing myofibroblast formation

Roel Bijkerk, Marina A. Aleksinskaya, Jacques M. G. J. Duijs, Jennifer Veth, Bettina Husen, Dania Reiche, Cornelia Prehn, Jerzy Adamski, Ton J. Rabelink, Jo G. R. De Mey, Anton Jan van Zonneveld*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Kidney fibrosis is the common pathophysiological mechanism in end-stage renal disease characterized by excessive accumulation of myofibroblast-derived extracellular matrix. Natriuretic peptides have been demonstrated to have cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-dependent anti-fibrotic properties likely due to interference with pro-fibrotic tissue growth factor beta (TGF-beta) signaling. However, in vivo, natriuretic peptides are rapidly degraded by neutral endopeptidases (NEP). In a unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) mouse model for kidney fibrosis we assessed the anti-fibrotic effects of SOL1, an orally active compound that inhibits NEP and endothelin-converting enzyme (ECE). Mice (n= 10 per group) subjected to UUO were treated for 1 week with either solvent, NEP-/ECE-inhibitor SOL1 (two doses), reference NEP-inhibitor candoxatril or the angiotensin II receptor type 1 (AT1)-antagonist losartan. While NEP-inhibitors had no significant effect on blood pressure, they did increase urinary cGMP levels as well as endothelin-1 (ET-1) levels. Immunohistochemical staining revealed a marked decrease in renal collagen (similar to 55% reduction, P<0.05) and alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA; similar to 40% reduction, P<0.05). Moreover, the number of alpha-SMA positive cells in the kidneys of SOL1-treated groups inversely correlated with cGMP levels consistent with a NEP-dependent anti-fibrotic effect. To dissect the molecular mechanisms associated with the anti-fibrotic effects of NEP inhibition, we performed a 'deep serial analysis of gene expression (Deep SAGE)' transcriptome and targeted metabolomics analysis of total kidneys of all treatment groups. Pathway analyses linked increased cGMP and ET-1 levels with decreased nuclear receptor signaling (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor [PPAR] and liver X receptor/retinoid X receptor [LXR/RXR] signaling) and actin cytoskeleton organization. Taken together, although our transcriptome and metabolome data indicate metabolic dysregulation, our data support the therapeutic potential of NEP inhibition in the treatment of kidney fibrosis via cGMP elevation and reduced myofibroblast formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-252
Number of pages14
JournalClinical Science
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2019



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