Nuclear hormone receptors of the NR4A subgroup have been implicated in cancer, atherosclerosis, and metabolic disease. However, little is known about the role of these receptors in kidney health or disease. Nr4a1-deficient rats (Nr4a1-/-) developed on a genetic background susceptible to kidney injury (fawn-hooded hypertensive rat [FHH]) were evaluated for BP, proteinuria, renal function, and metabolic parameters from 4 to 24 weeks-of-age. By week 24, Nr4a1-/- rats exhibited significantly higher proteinuria (approximately 4-fold) and decreased GFR compared with FHH controls. The severity of tubular atrophy, tubular casts, and interstitial fibrosis increased significantly in Nr4a1-/- rats and was accompanied by a large increase in immune cell infiltration, predominantly macrophages and to a lesser extent T cells and B cells. Global transcriptome and network analyses at weeks 8, 16, and 24 identified several proinflammatory genes and pathways differentially regulated between strains. Bone marrow crosstransplantation studies demonstrated that kidney injury in Nr4a1-/- rats was almost completely rescued by bone marrow transplanted from FHH controls. In vitro, macrophages isolated from Nr4a1-/- rats demonstrated increased immune activation compared with FHH-derived macrophages. In summary, the loss of Nr4a1 in immune cells appears to cause the increased kidney injury and reduced renal function observed in the Nr4a1-/- model.
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