Interstitial fibrosis is a typical feature of end-stage renal diseases, regardless of the initial cause of kidney injury. Epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a mechanism that is thought to play a role in generating the interstitial matrix-producing myofibroblasts and is prominently induced by the transforming growth factor-β 1 (TGF-β1). TGF-β1 signals through a variety of Smad and non-Smad signaling pathways, including the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathways. In a study published in a recent issue of Clinical Science (Clin. Sci. (2018) 132(21),2339–2355), Li et al. investigated the potential role of the Mitogen-activated protein kinase phosphatase 2 (MKP2), also known as Dusp4, in the control of EMT and renal fibrosis. Based on results obtained with an animal model of kidney fibrosis and a proximal tubular epithelial cell line system, the authors put forward a role for MKP2 as a negative feedback regulator of TGF-β1-induced EMT and fibrosis in the kidney. Intriguingly, MKP2 is found to down-regulate activity of c-Jun, but not that of other MAPKs, extracellular signal-regulated kinases or p38, implying a role for c-Jun N-terminal kinase-dependent signaling in renal fibrosis. In this commentary, I discuss the findings of Li and co-workers in the context of the recent literature placing a focus on potential clinical/therapeutic implications.

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