Urea inhibits hypertonicity-inducible TonEBP expression and action

Wei Tian, David M. Cohen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Tonicity-responsive genes are regulated by the TonE enhancer element and the tonicity-responsive enhancer binding protein (TonEBP) transcription factor with which it interacts. Urea, a permeant solute coexistent with hypertonic NaCl in the mammalian renal medulla, activates a characteristic set of signaling events that may serve to counteract the effects of NaCl in some contexts. Urea inhibited the ability of hypertonic stressors to increase expression of TonEBP mRNA and also inhibited tonicity-inducible TonE-dependent reporter gene activity. The permeant solute glycerol failed to reproduce these effects, as did cell activators including peptide mitogens and phorbol ester. The inhibitory effect of urea was evident as late as 2 h after the application of hypertonicity. Pharmacological inhibitors of known urea-inducible signaling pathways failed to abolish the inhibitory effect of urea. TonEBP action is incompletely understood, but evidence supports a role for proteasome function and p38 action in regulation; urea failed to inhibit proteasome function or p38 signaling in response to hypertonicity. Consistent with its effect on TonEBP expression and action, urea pretreatment inhibited the effect of hypertonicity on expression of the physiological effector gene, aldose reductase. Taken together, these data 1) define a molecular mechanism of urea-mediated inhibition of tonicity-dependent signaling, and 2) underscore a role for TonEBP abundance in regulating TonE-mediated gene transcription.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F904-F912
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number5 49-5
StatePublished - May 2001


  • Cell culture
  • Kidney
  • Mitogen-activated protein kinase
  • Proteasome
  • Renal
  • Stress
  • Tonicity-responsive enhancer binding protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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