Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

Pin-Lan Li, MD, PhD


Hyperhomocysteinemia (hHcys) is a widely known pathogenic factor in the progression of end-stage renal disease (ESRD) and it is also associated with an increased risk for injurious cardiovascular pathologies during ESRD. HHcys is linked to the formation and activation of the NOD-like receptor protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome, characterized as a critical early mechanism initiating the inflammatory response. NADPH oxidase (NOX)-derived reactive oxygen species (ROS) mediate the activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome in podocytes in response to elevated levels of homocysteine (Hcys) in vitro and in vivo. However, it remains unknown how NLRP3 inflammasome activation is triggered by NOX. The aim of the present study sought to determine the signaling cascade that triggers glomerular injury and sclerosis during hHcys mediated by Vav2, a guanine nucleotide exchange factor (GNEF). Using both genetic and pharmacological interventions of Vav2, we first tested whether this GNEF is involved in hHcys-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation in podocytes by its role in activation of the Rac-1-NOX complex. Further, we explored whether pharmacological targeting of Vav2 activation may regulate NLRP3 inflammasome signaling pathway during hHcys-induced glomerular injury. We found that mice with hHcys (on the FF diet) or oncoVav2 (a constitutively active form of Vav2) transfection in the kidney exhibited increased colocalization of NLRP3 with apoptosis-associated speck-like protein (ASC) or caspase-1 and elevated IL-1β levels in glomeruli, indicating the formation and activation of the NLRP3 inflammasome. This glomerular NLRP3 inflammasome activation was accompanied by podocyte dysfunction and glomerular injury, even sclerosis. Local transfection of Vav2 shRNA plasmids significantly attenuated hHcys-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation, podocyte injury, and glomerular sclerosis. In cultured podocytes, Hcys treatment and oncoVav2 transfection increased NLRP3 inflammasome formation and activation. This NLRP3 activation was inhibited by Vav2 shRNA, associated with reduction of Rac-1 activity and ROS production. Administration of NSC23766, a Rac-1 inhibitor substantially attenuated inflammasome formation, desmin expression and decreased podocin expression in glomeruli of hHcys mice. These results suggest that elevated Hcys levels activate Vav2 and thereby increase NOX activity, leading to ROS production. ROS trigger NLRP3 inflammasome activation, podocyte dysfunction and glomerular injury. Therefore, the present study defines a novel mechanism underlying hHcys-induced NLRP3 inflammasome activation and its progression to ESRD.


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