Transcriptome analysis reveals the ahr, smad2/3, and hif-1α pathways as the mechanism of ochratoxin a toxicity in kidney cells

Min Cheol Pyo, In Geol Choi, Kwang Won Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Ochratoxin A (OTA) is a mycotoxin occurring in foods consumed by humans. Recently, there has been growing global concern regarding OTA toxicity. The main target organ of OTA is the kidney, but the mechanism underlying renal toxicity is not well known. In this study, human-derived proximal tubular epithelial cells, HK-2 cells, were used for RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) and transcriptome analysis. In total, 3193 differentially expressed genes were identified upon treatment with 200 nM OTA in HK-2 cells; of these, 2224 were upregulated and 969 were downregulated. Transcriptome analysis revealed that OTA significantly affects hypoxia, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), apoptosis, and xenobiotic metabolism pathways in kidney cells. Quantitative real-time PCR analysis showed gene expression patterns similar to RNA-seq analysis. Expression of EMT markers (E-cadherin and fibronectin), apoptosis markers (caspase-3 and Bax), and kidney injury molecule-1 (KIM-1) was suppressed by inhibiting AhR expression using siRNA, and the related transcription factors, Smad2/3, and HIF-1α were downregulated. Smad2/3 suppression with siRNA could inhibit fibronetcin, caspase-3, Bax, and KIM-1 expression. Fibronetcin, caspase-3, Bax, and KIM-1 expression could be increased with HIF-1α suppression with siRNA. Taken together, these findings suggest that OTA-mediated kidney toxicity via the AhR-Smad2/3-HIF-1α signaling pathways leads to induction of EMT, apoptosis, and kidney injury.

Original languageEnglish
Article number190
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2021 Mar


  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • Hypoxia-inducible factor-1α
  • Ochratoxin A
  • RNA-sequencing
  • Smad2/3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Toxicology
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis


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