Activation of the transcription factor EB rescues lysosomal abnormalities in cystinotic kidney cells

Laura R. Rega, Elena Polishchuk, Sandro Montefusco, Gennaro Napolitano, Giulia Tozzi, Jinzhong Zhang, Francesco Bellomo, Anna Taranta, Anna Pastore, Roman Polishchuk, Fiorella Piemonte, Diego L. Medina, Sergio D. Catz, Andrea Ballabio, Francesco Emma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Nephropathic cystinosis is a rare autosomal recessive lysosomal storage disease characterized by accumulation of cystine into lysosomes secondary to mutations in the cystine lysosomal transporter, cystinosin. The defect initially causes proximal tubular dysfunction (Fanconi syndrome) which in time progresses to end-stage renal disease. Cystinotic patients treated with the cystine-depleting agent, cysteamine, have improved life expectancy, delayed progression to chronic renal failure, but persistence of Fanconi syndrome. Here, we have investigated the role of the transcription factor EB (TFEB), a master regulator of the autophagy-lysosomal pathway, in conditionally immortalized proximal tubular epithelial cells derived from the urine of a healthy volunteer or a cystinotic patient. Lack of cystinosin reduced TFEB expression and induced TFEB nuclear translocation. Stimulation of endogenous TFEB activity by genistein, or overexpression of exogenous TFEB lowered cystine levels within 24 hours in cystinotic cells. Overexpression of TFEB also stimulated delayed endocytic cargo processing within 24 hours. Rescue of other abnormalities of the lysosomal compartment was observed but required prolonged expression of TFEB. These abnormalities could not be corrected with cysteamine. Thus, these data show that the consequences of cystinosin deficiency are not restricted to cystine accumulation and support the role of TFEB as a therapeutic target for the treatment of lysosomal storage diseases, in particular of cystinosis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)862-873
Number of pages12
JournalKidney International
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 1 2016


  • cystinosis
  • pediatric nephrology
  • proximal tubule
  • renal pathology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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