Epigenetic regulation of RCAN1 expression in kidney disease and its role in podocyte injury

Huilin Li, Weijia Zhang, Fang Zhong, Gokul C. Das, Yifan Xie, Zhengzhe Li, Weijing Cai, Gengru Jiang, Jae Choi, Mohamad Sidani, Deborah P. Hyink, Kyung Lee, Paul E. Klotman, John Cijiang He

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Mounting evidence suggests that epigenetic modification is important in kidney disease pathogenesis. To determine whether epigenetic regulation is involved in HIV-induced kidney injury, we performed genome-wide methylation profiling and transcriptomic profiling of human primary podocytes infected with HIV-1. Comparison of DNA methylation and RNA sequencing profiles identified several genes that were hypomethylated with corresponding upregulated RNA expression in HIV-infected podocytes. Notably, we found only one hypermethylated gene with corresponding downregulated RNA expression, namely regulator of calcineurin 1 (RCAN1). Further, we found that RCAN1 RNA expression was suppressed in glomeruli in human diabetic nephropathy, IgA nephropathy, and lupus nephritis, and in mouse models of HIV-associated nephropathy and diabetic nephropathy. We confirmed that HIV infection or high glucose conditions suppressed RCAN1 expression in cultured podocytes. This suppression was alleviated upon pretreatment with DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-Aza-2′-deoxycytidine, suggesting that RCAN1 expression is epigenetically suppressed in the context of HIV infection and diabetic conditions. Mechanistically, increased expression of RCAN1 decreased HIV- or high glucose–induced nuclear factor of activated T cells (NFAT) transcriptional activity. Increased RCAN1 expression also stabilized actin cytoskeleton organization, consistent with the inhibition of the calcineurin pathway. In vivo, knockout of RCAN1 aggravated albuminuria and podocyte injury in mice with Adriamycin-induced nephropathy. Our findings suggest that epigenetic suppression of RCAN1 aggravates podocyte injury in the setting of HIV infection and diabetic nephropathy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1160-1176
Number of pages17
JournalKidney International
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2018


  • HIV-1
  • NFAT
  • RCAN1
  • calcineurin inhibitors
  • diabetic nephropathy
  • podocyte


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