Renal parenchymal injury in HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN) is characterized by epithelial proliferation, dedifferentiation, and apoptosis along the entire length of the nephron. Although apoptotic cell death in HIVAN has been well documented, the mechanism for HIV-induced apoptosis is poorly understood. Whether the epithelial apoptosis in HIVAN is mediated by NF-κB-activated Fas ligand expression was investigated here. In human HIVAN and HIV-1 transgenic mouse kidney specimens, the expression of Fas receptor and ligand proteins were markedly upregulated on epithelium in diseased glomerular and tubulointerstitial compartments when compared with normal. Podocyte cell lines that were derived from HIV-1 transgenic mice showed a similar upregulation of Fas receptor expression and de novo expression of Fas ligand by semiquantitative reverse transcription-PCR and Western blotting. In cultured podocytes, cross-linking of the Fas receptor to mimic ligand binding induced caspase 8 activity and apoptosis in both normal and HIVAN podocytes. Because constitutive NF-κB activity has been demonstrated in HIVAN epithelia, evidence for transcriptional control of the Fas ligand expression by NF-κB was sought. With the use of cultured podocytes, expression of a Fas ligand promoter reporter plasmid was higher in HIVAN podocytes, indicating increased transcriptional activity. In addition, chromatin immunoprecipitation assays were performed to demonstrate that p65-containing (RelA) complexes bound the Fas ligand promoter and that suppression of activated NF-κB with a peptide inhibitor could reduce the expression of Fas ligand mRNA in HIVAN podocytes. These results suggest that NF-κB may regulate Fas-mediated apoptosis in HIVAN by controlling the expression of Fas ligand in renal epithelium.
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