Cadmium (Cd) is a nephrotoxic environmental pollutant that causes a generalized dysfunction of the proximal tubule characterized by polyuria and proteinuria. Even though the effects of Cd on the kidney have been well-characterized, the molecular mechanisms underlying these effects have not been fully elucidated. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are small non-coding RNAs that regulate cellular and physiologic function by modulating gene expression at the post-transcriptional level. Researchers from Midwestern University set out to determine if Cd affects renal cortex miRNA expression in a well-established animal model of Cd-induced kidney injury.

In their study, male Sprague-Dawley rats were treated with subcutaneous injections of either isotonic saline or CdCl2 (0.6 mg/kg) 5 days a week for 12 weeks. The 12-week Cd-treatment protocol resulted in kidney injury as determined by the development of polyuria and proteinuria, and a significant increase in the urinary biomarkers Kim-1, β2 microglobulin and cystatin C. Total RNA was isolated from the renal cortex of the saline control and Cd treated animals, and differentially expressed miRNAs were identified using µParaflo microRNA microarray analysis. The microarray results demonstrated that the expression of 44 miRNAs were significantly increased and 54 miRNAs were significantly decreased in the Cd treatment group versus the saline control (t-test, p ≤ 0.05, N = 6 per group). miR-21-5p, miR-34a-5p, miR-146b-5p, miR-149-3p, miR-224-5p, miR-451-5p, miR-1949, miR-3084a-3p, and miR-3084c-3p demonstrated more abundant expression and a significant two-fold or greater increased expression in the Cd-treatment group versus the saline control group. miR-193b-3p, miR-455-3p, and miR-342-3p demonstrated more abundant expression and a significant two-fold or greater decreased expression in the Cd-treatment group versus the saline control group. Real-time PCR validation demonstrated (1) a significant (t-test, p ≤ 0.05, N = 6 per group) increase in expression in the Cd-treated group for miR-21-5p (2.7-fold), miR-34a-5p (10.8-fold), miR-146b-5p (2-fold), miR-224-5p (10.2-fold), miR-3084a-3p (2.4-fold), and miR-3084c-3p (3.3-fold) and (2) a significant (t-test, p ≤ 0.05, N = 6 per group) 52% decrease in miR-455-3p expression in the Cd-treatment group.

These findings demonstrate that Cd significantly alters the miRNA expression profile in the renal cortex and raises the possibility that dysregulated miRNA expression may play a role in the pathophysiology of Cd-induced kidney injury. In addition, these findings raise the possibility that Cd-dysregulated miRNAs might be used as urinary biomarkers of Cd exposure or Cd-induced kidney injury.

 

 

Effects of Cd on miRNA expression in the rat renal cortex. Microarray heat map demonstrating significant differences in the expression of miRNAs in the renal cortex of Cd-treated (0.6 mg/kg/day, 5 days per week for 12 weeks) male Sprague-Dawley rats versus saline controls. Cadmium significantly decreased the expression of 54 miRNAs and increased the expression of 44 miRNAs (N = 6 per group, unpaired t-test, p ≤ 0.05).

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Reference
M. J. Fay, L. A. C. Alt, P. C. Lamar, J. R. Edwards, W. C. Prozialeck (2018) Cadmium Nephrotoxicity Is Associated with Altered MicroRNA Expression in the Rat Renal Cortex Toxics doi: 10.3390/toxics6010016 [article]

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