Ciliary Polycystin-2 Is a Mechanosensitive Calcium Channel Involved in Nitric Oxide Signaling Cascades

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Cardiovascular complications such as hypertension are a continuous concern in patients with autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). The PKD2 encoding for polycystin-2 is mutated in ≈15% of ADPKD patients. Here, we show that polycystin-2 is localized to the cilia of mouse and human vascular endothelial cells. We demonstrate that the normal expression level and localization of polycystin-2 to cilia is required for the endothelial cilia to sense fluid shear stress through a complex biochemical cascade, involving calcium, calmodulin, Akt/PKB, and protein kinase C. In response to fluid shear stress, mouse endothelial cells with knockdown or knockout of Pkd2 lose the ability to generate nitric oxide (NO). Consistent with mouse data, endothelial cells generated from ADPKD patients do not show polycystin-2 in the cilia and are unable to sense fluid flow. In the isolated artery, we further show that ciliary polycystin-2 responds specifically to shear stress and not to mechanical stretch, a pressurized biomechanical force that involves purinergic receptor activation. We propose a new role for polycystin-2 in transmitting extracellular shear stress to intracellular NO biosynthesis. Thus, aberrant expression or localization of polycystin-2 to cilia could promote high blood pressure because of inability to synthesize NO in response to an increase in shear stress (blood flow).


This article was originally published in Circulation Research, volume 104, issue 7, in April 2009, and was featured on the front page of the journal. DOI: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.108.192765


American Heart Association