Adaptation to physiological stimuli often involves changes in gene transcription. Studies of hyperosmolar stress in renal epithelial cells have provided an ideal paradigm for understanding regulation of gene expression. Renal epithelial cells respond very differently to hyperosmolar NaCl and urea and several strategies including cloning based on known biological function, candidate gene analysis, and differential display analysis have successfully identified many genes induced by these hyperosmolar challenges. Hyperosmolar NaCl produces adverse effects on cellular biosynthetic processes and compensatory increases are observed in transcription of transporters, stress proteins, and metabolic enxymes. In contrast, hyperosmolar urea fails to inhibit biosynthetic processes but, nonetheless, initiates a very specific program of gene expression in renal epithelial cells. This program appears to involve a urea sensor/receptor system which activates transcription and translation of the zinc-finger transcription factor Egr-1. This work highlights the concept that rapid analysis of differential gene expression will enable one to define cellular programs of gene expression involving up- and down-regulation of functionally-related gene families.
ASJC Scopus subject areas