Theranostics 2021; 11(6):2706-2721. doi:10.7150/thno.48679

Research Paper

Histone demethylase JMJD3 protects against renal fibrosis by suppressing TGFβ and Notch signaling and preserving PTEN expression

Chao Yu1, Chongxiang Xiong2, Jinhua Tang1, Xiying Hou1, Na Liu1, George Bayliss3, Shougang Zhuang1,3✉

1. Department of Nephrology, Shanghai East Hospital, Tongji University School of Medicine, Shanghai 200120, China.
2. Department of Nephrology, the Third Affiliated Hospital of Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, 510630 China.
3. Department of Medicine, Rhode Island Hospital and Alpert Medical School, Brown University, Providence, RI 02903.

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Yu C, Xiong C, Tang J, Hou X, Liu N, Bayliss G, Zhuang S. Histone demethylase JMJD3 protects against renal fibrosis by suppressing TGFβ and Notch signaling and preserving PTEN expression. Theranostics 2021; 11(6):2706-2721. doi:10.7150/thno.48679. Available from

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Rationale: The Jumonji domain containing-3 (JMJD3), a specific histone demethylase for trimethylation on histone H3 lysine 27 (H3K27me3), is associated with the pathogenesis of many diseases, but its role in renal fibrosis remains unexplored. Here we examined the role of JMJD3 and mechanisms involved in the activation of renal fibroblasts and development of renal fibrosis.

Methods: Murine models of 5/6 surgical nephrectomy (SNx) and ureteral unilateral obstruction (UUO) were used to assess the effect of a specific JMJD3 inhibitor, GSKJ4, and genetic deletion of JMJD3 from FOXD1 stroma-derived renal interstitial cells on the development of renal fibrosis and activation of renal interstitial fibroblasts. Cultured rat renal interstitial fibroblasts (NRK-49F) and mouse renal tubular epithelial cells (mTECs) were also used to examine JMJD3-mediated activation of profibrotic signaling.

Results: JMJD3 and H3K27me3 expression levels were upregulated in the kidney of mice subjected to SNx 5/6 and UUO. Pharmacological inhibition of JMJD3 with GSKJ4 or genetic deletion of JMJD3 led to worsening of renal dysfunction as well as increased deposition of extracellular matrix proteins and activation of renal interstitial fibroblasts in the injured kidney. This was coincident with decreased expression of Smad7 and enhanced expression of H3K27me3, transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1), Smad3, Notch1, Notch3 and Jagged1. Inhibition of JMJD3 by GSK J4 or its specific siRNA also resulted in the similar responses in cultured NRK-49F and mTECs exposed to serum or TGFβ1. Moreover, JMJD3 inhibition augmented phosphorylation of AKT and ERK1/2 in vivo and in vitro.

Conclusion: These results indicate that JMJD3 confers anti-fibrotic effects by limiting activation of multiple profibrotic signaling pathways and suggest that JMJD3 modulation may have therapeutic effects for chronic kidney disease.

Keywords: Jumonji domain containing-3, renal fibrosis, extracellular matrix, renal interstitial fibroblasts, 5/6 nephrectomy, ureteral unilateral obstruction