Folate-conjugated rapamycin slows progression of polycystic kidney disease

TitleFolate-conjugated rapamycin slows progression of polycystic kidney disease
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsShillingford, JM, Leamon, CP, Vlahov, IR, Weimbs, T
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology

Activation of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway is aberrant in autosomal- dominant polycystic kidney disease (ADPKD). The mTOR inhibitors, such as rapamycin, ameliorate PKD in rodent models, but clinical trials have not shown benefit, possibly as a result of low tissue concentrations of rapamycin at clinically tolerable doses. To overcome this limitation, we synthesized a folate-conjugated form of rapamycin (FC-rapa) that is taken up by folate receptor–mediated endocytosis and cleaved in- tracellularly to reconstitute the active drug. We found that renal cyst-lining cells highly express the folate receptor in ADPKD and mouse models. In vitro, FC-rapa inhibited mTOR activity in a dose- and folate receptor–dependent manner. Treatment of a PKD mouse model with FC-rapa inhibited mTOR in the target tissue, strongly attenuated proliferation and growth of renal cysts and preserved renal function. Further- more, FC-rapa inhibited mTOR activity in the kidney but not in other organs. In summary, these results suggest that targeting the kidney using FC-rapa may overcome the significant side effects and lack of renal efficacy observed in clinical trials with mTOR inhibitors in ADPKD.


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