Endothelin-1 (ET-1) promotes renal damage during cardiovascular disease; yet, the molecular mechanisms involved remain unknown. Endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress, triggered by unfolded protein accumulation in the ER, contributes to apoptosis and organ injury. These studies aimed to determine whether the ET-1 system promotes renal ER stress development in response to tunicamycin. ET B deficient (ET B def) or transgenic control (TG-con) rats were used in the presence or absence of ET A receptor antagonism. Tunicamycin treatment similarly increased cortical ER stress markers in both rat genotypes; however, only ET B def rats showed a 14-24 fold increase from baseline for medullary GRP78, sXBP-1, and CHOP. Pre-treatment of TG-con rats with the ET A blocker ABT-627 for 1 week prior to tunicamycin injection significantly reduced the ER stress response in cortex and medulla, and also inhibited renal apoptosis. Pre-treatment with ABT-627 failed to decrease renal ER stress and apoptosis in ET B def rats. In conclusion, the ET-1 system is important for the development of tunicamycin-induced renal ER stress and apoptosis. ET A receptor activation induces renal ER stress genes and apoptosis, while functional activation of the ET B receptor has protective effects. These results highlight targeting the ET A receptor as a therapeutic approach against ER stress-induced kidney injury.
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