Tubulointerstitial accumulation of matrix proteins in human kidney biopsies is the best predictor of renal survival. In this issue of the JCI, Yen-Ting Chen et al. elegantly show that an endoplasmic reticulum resident protein, thioredoxin domain containing 5 (TXNDC5), is a key mediator of experimental kidney fibrosis. The researchers used knockout or conditional knockout animals to reduce Txndc5 expression, which reduced the accumulation of fibrous tissue in three models of chronic kidney disease (CKD), including unilateral ureteral obstruction, unilateral ischemia reperfusion injury, and folic acid nephropathy. More importantly, the studies demonstrate that the activated fibroblasts are almost exclusively responsible for producing matrix proteins. The study also showed that reducing Txndc5 in mice after tubulointerstitial fibrosis (TIF) was established mitigated the fibrosis. These experiments have obvious clinical importance but warrant caution because a key question remains unanswered. The impact of reducing TXNDC5 on renal function itself, the very heart of CKD, demands further exploration.
Multicompartmental model of proximal tubule injury underlying chronic kidney disease.