, Volume 22, Issue 6, pp 769–776 | Cite as

Relaxin attenuates aristolochic acid induced human tubular epithelial cell apoptosis in vitro by activation of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway

  • Xiang-Cheng Xie
  • Ning Zhao
  • Qun-Hong Xu
  • Xiu Yang
  • Wen-Kai Xia
  • Qi Chen
  • Ming Wang
  • Xiao Fei


Aristolochic acid nephropathy remains a leading cause of chronic kidney disease (CKD), however few treatment strategies exist. Emerging evidence has shown that H2 relaxin (RLX) possesses powerful antifibrosis and anti-apoptotic properties, therefore we aimed to investigate whether H2 relaxin can be employed to reduce AA-induced cell apoptosis. Human proximal tubular epithelial (HK-2) cells exposed to AA-I were treated with or without administration of H2 RLX. Cell viability was examined using the WST-8 assay. Apoptotic morphologic alterations were observed using the Hoechst 33342 staining method. Apoptosis was detected using flow cytometry. The expression of caspase 3, caspase 8, caspase 9, ERK1/2, Bax, Bcl-2, and Akt proteins was determined by Western blot. Co-treatment with RLX reversed the increased apoptosis observed in the AA-I only treated group. RLX restored expression of phosphorylated Akt which found to be decreased in the AA-I only treated cells. RLX co-treatment led to a decrease in the Bax/Bcl-2 ratio as well as the cleaved form of caspase-3 compared to the AA-I only treated cells. This anti-apoptotic effect of RLX was attenuated by co-administration of the Akt inhibitor LY294002. The present study demonstrated H2 RLX can decrease AA-I induced apoptosis through activation of the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway.


Aristolochic acid nephropathy Apoptosis Human relaxin Kidney fibrosis 



This study is supported by Grants from the Hangzhou Science and Technology Committee (20150733Q06).

Authors contributions

X.C.C and F.X. designed the research protocols and drafted the paper. Z.N., Y.X., and X.Q.H conducted research. C.Q., W.K.X. and M.W. analyzed data and performed statistical analysis. All authors reviewed the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no competing financial interests.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiang-Cheng Xie
    • 1
  • Ning Zhao
    • 1
  • Qun-Hong Xu
    • 1
  • Xiu Yang
    • 1
  • Wen-Kai Xia
    • 2
  • Qi Chen
    • 1
  • Ming Wang
    • 1
  • Xiao Fei
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Nephrology, Hangzhou First People’s HospitalNanjing Medical UniversityHangzhouChina
  2. 2.Department of NephrologyJiangyin People’s HospitalJiangyinChina

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