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BACKGROUND - Sex differences mediating predisposition to kidney injury are well known, with evidence indicating lower CKD incidence rates and slower decline in renal function in nondiabetic CKD for premenopausal women compared with men. However, signaling pathways involved have not been elucidated to date. The EGF receptor (EGFR) is widely expressed in the kidney in glomeruli and tubules, and persistent and dysregulated EGFR activation mediates progressive renal injury.
METHODS - To investigate the sex differences in response to renal injury, we examined EGFR expression in mice, in human kidney tissue, and in cultured cell lines.
RESULTS - In wild type mice, renal mRNA and protein EGFR levels were comparable in males and females at postnatal day 7 but were significantly lower in age-matched adult females than in adult males. Similar gender differences in renal EGFR expression were detected in normal adult human kidneys. In Dsk5 mutant mice with a gain-of-function allele that increases basal EGFR kinase activity, males had progressive glomerulopathy, albuminuria, loss of podocytes, and tubulointerstitial fibrosis, but female Dsk5 mice had minimal kidney injury. Oophorectomy had no effect on renal EGFR levels in female Dsk5 mice, while castration protected against the kidney injury in male Dsk5 mice, in association with a reduction in EGFR expression to levels seen in females. Conversely, testosterone increased EGFR expression and renal injury in female Dsk5 mice. Testosterone directly stimulated EGFR expression in cultured kidney cells.
CONCLUSIONS - These studies indicate that differential renal EGFR expression plays a role in the sex differences in susceptibility to progressive kidney injury that may be mediated at least in part by testosterone.
Copyright © 2019 by the American Society of Nephrology.