Hypertension-induced renal fibrosis contributes to the progression of chronic kidney disease, and apigenin, an anti-hypertensive flavone that is abundant in celery, acts as an agonist of transient receptor potential vanilloid 4 (TRPV4). However, whether apigenin reduces hypertension-induced renal fibrosis, as well as the underlying mechanism, remains elusive. In the present study, the deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA)–salt hypertension model was established in male Sprague-Dawley rats that were treated with apigenin or vehicle for 4 weeks. Apigenin significantly attenuated the DOCA–salt-induced structural and functional damage to the kidney, which was accompanied by reduced expression of transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1)/Smad2/3 signaling pathway and extracellular matrix proteins. Immunochemistry, cell-attached patch clamp and fluorescent Ca2+ imaging results indicated that TRPV4 was expressed and activated by apigenin in both the kidney and renal cells. Importantly, knockout of TRPV4 in mice abolished the beneficial effects of apigenin that were observed in the DOCA–salt hypertensive rats. Additionally, apigenin directly inhibited activation of the TGF-β1/Smad2/3 signaling pathway in different renal tissues through activation of TRPV4 regardless of the type of pro-fibrotic stimulus. Moreover, the TRPV4-mediated intracellular Ca2+ influx activated the AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)/sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) pathway, which inhibited the TGF-β1/Smad2/3 signaling pathway. In summary, dietary apigenin has beneficial effects on hypertension-induced renal fibrosis through the TRPV4-mediated activation of AMPK/SIRT1 and inhibition of the TGF-β1/Smad2/3 signaling pathway. This work suggests that dietary apigenin may represent a promising lifestyle modification for the prevention of hypertension-induced renal damage in populations that consume a high-sodium diet.

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