Supplementary Material for: VEGF-A Inhibition Ameliorates Podocyte Apoptosis via Repression of Activating Protein 1 in Diabetes

Background/Aims: Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) upregulation and podocyte apoptosis have been documented in diabetes. This study was designed to investigate whether inhibiting VEGF-A could ameliorate podocyte apoptosis in diabetes and the underlying mechanisms. Methods: In vitro, small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) of VEGF-A and activator protein 1 (AP-1, c-fos and c-jun), bevacizumab (VEGF-A inhibitor) and SP600125 (AP-1 inhibitor) were added to high glucose (30 mM) induced podocytes. Luciferase reporter assay was used to investigate whether AP-1 was a direct target of VEGF-A. In vivo, bevacizumab and SP600125 were administered to 12-week-old streptozotocin-induced male Sprague Dawley rats. The level of VEGF-A, c-fos, c-jun and bcl-2 were examined using immunostaining and Western blot analysis. Podocyte apoptosis was detected using the terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated uridine 5′-triphosphate-biotin nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay, electron microscopy and flow cytometry. Results: Silencing VEGF-A or AP-1 upregulated bcl-2 and ameliorated podocyte apoptosis. Silencing VEGF-A decreased the level of c-fos and c-jun and bevacizumab and SP600125 treatment attenuated podocyte apoptosis. Luciferase reporter activity of VEGF-A-3′-UTR constructs was significantly provoked when stimulated with TGF-β1. In diabetic rat kidneys, VEGF-A co-localized with bcl-2 in podocytes. With bevacizumab and SP600125 treatment, the level of VEGF-A and AP-1 decreased while bcl-2 increased. Podocyte apoptotic rate was reduced with condensed podocyte nuclei less frequently observed. The urine albumin excretion rate (UAER) and albumin/creatinine were improved. Conclusion: This study demonstrates VEGF-A inhibition ameliorates podocyte apoptosis by regulating AP-1 and bcl-2 signaling. AP-1 is a direct target of VEGF-A and a novel player in podocyte apoptosis.