Background: Withaferin A is a functional ingredient of a traditional medicinal plant, Withania somnifera, which has been broadly used in India for protecting against chronic diseases. This bioactive steroidal lactone possesses multiple functions such as anti-oxidation, anti-inflammation, and immunomodulation. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is one of the major health problems worldwide with the high complication, morbidity, and mortality rates. The detailed effects and underlying mechanisms of withaferin A on CKD progression still remain to be clarified. Purpose: We aimed to investigate whether withaferin A treatment ameliorates the development of renal fibrosis and its related mechanisms in a CKD mouse model. Methods: A mouse model of unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) was used to mimic the progression of CKD. Male adult C57BL/6J mice were orally administered with 3 mg/kg/day withaferin A for 14 consecutive days after UUO surgery. Candesartan (5 mg/kg/day) was used as a positive control. Results: Both Withaferin A and candesartan treatments significantly ameliorated the histopathological changes and collagen deposition in the UUO kidneys. Withaferin A could significantly reverse the increases in the protein levels of pro-fibrotic factors (fibronectin, transforming growth factor-β, and α-smooth muscle actin), inflammatory signaling molecules (phosphorylated nuclear factor-κB-p65, interleukin-1β, and cyclooxygenase-2), and cleaved caspase-3, apoptosis, and infiltration of neutrophils in the UUO kidneys. The protein levels of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-associated molecules (GRP78, GRP94, ATF4, CHOP, phosphorylated eIF2α, and cleaved caspase 12) were increased in the kidneys of UUO mice, which could be significantly reversed by withaferin A treatment. Conclusion: Withaferin A protects against the CKD progression that is, at least in part, associated with the moderation of ER stress-related apoptosis, inflammation, and fibrosis in the kidneys of CKD. Withaferin A may serve as a potential therapeutic agent for the development of CKD.
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