Stanniocalcin-1 is an intracrine protein; it binds to the cell surface, is internalized to the mitochondria, and diminishes superoxide generation through induction of uncoupling proteins. In vitro, stanniocalcin-1 inhibits macrophages and preserves endothelial barrier function, and transgenic overexpression of stanniocalcin-1 in mice protects against ischemia-reperfusion kidney injury. We sought to determine the kidney phenotype after kidney endothelium-specific expression of stanniocalcin-1 small hairpin RNA (shRNA). We generated transgenic mice that express stanniocalcin-1 shRNA or scrambled shRNA upon removal of a floxed reporter (phosphoglycerate kinase-driven enhanced green fluorescent protein) and used ultrasound microbubbles to deliver tyrosine kinase receptor-2 promoter-driven Cre to the kidney to permit kidney endothelium-specific shRNA expression. Stanniocalcin-1 mRNA and protein were expressed throughout the kidney in wild-type mice. Delivery of tyrosine kinase receptor-2 promoter-driven Cre to stanniocalcin-1 shRNA transgenic kidneys diminished the expression of stanniocalcin-1 mRNA and protein throughout the kidneys. Stanniocalcin-1 mRNA and protein expression did not change in similarly treated scrambled shRNA transgenic kidneys, and we observed no Cre protein expression in cultured and tyrosine kinase receptor-2 promoter-driven Cre-transfected proximal tubule cells, suggesting that knockdown of stanniocalcin-1 in epithelial cells in vivo may result from stanniocalcin-1 shRNA transfer from endothelial cells to epithelial cells. Kidney-specific knockdown of stanniocalcin-1 led to severe proximal tubule injury characterized by vacuolization, decreased uncoupling of protein-2 expression, greater generation of superoxide, activation of the unfolded protein response, initiation of autophagy, cell apoptosis, and kidney failure. Our observations suggest that stanniocalcin-1 is critical for tubular epithelial survival under physiologic conditions.
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