BMC nephrology

β2-microglobulin induces epithelial-mesenchymal transition in human renal proximal tubule epithelial cells in vitro.

PMID 25899529


The objective of this study was to investigate the influence of β2-microglobulin (β2-M) on the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in renal tubular epithelial cells. A human kidney proximal tubular cell line (HK-2) was used as the proximal tubular cell model. HK-2 cells were exposed to different concentrations of β2-M (5, 10, 25, and 50xa0μM) for up to 24, 48 and 72xa0h. The effects of β2-M on cell morphology were observed by phase contrast microscopy, and the possible associated mechanisms were assessed by immunofluorescence staining, western blot, RNA interference, immunoprecipitation, and induced coupled plasma mass spectroscopy. β2-M induced marked morphological alterations in the HK-2 cells, accompanied by the increased expression of extracellular matrix components and α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA), vimentin and fibronectin and the reduced expression of E-cadherin. Our results also revealed that β2-M could induce the EMT in the HK-2 cells without significant affecting cell viability. Excess β2-M in the HK-2 cells led to a decrease in iron and an increase in hypoxia inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α), which induced EMT in the HK-2 cells. Additionally, disrupting the function of the β2-M/hemochromatosis (HFE) complex by HFE knockdown was sufficient to reverse β2-M-mediated EMT in the HK-2 cells. These findings demonstrate that the activity of β2-M is mediated by the β2-M/HFE complex, which regulates intracellular iron homeostasis and HIF-1α and ultimately induces EMT in HK2 cells.