Circular RNAs (circRNAs) are regulators of gene expression that can regulate cell proliferation and programmed cell death and serve as biomarkers in renal diseases. However, the specific traits and underlying mechanisms of circRNAs in the progression of lupus nephritis (LN) have not been elucidated. In the present study, we clarified that hsa_circ_0054595 (circRTN4) was upregulated in human renal mesangial cells (HRMCs). In cultured HRMCs, circRTN4 could enhance FN expression by directly interacting with miR-513a-5p. High circRTN4 expression in monocytes disseminated into HRMCs in an exosomal manner, thereby accelerating cell proliferation and extracellular matrix deposition. In addition, knockdown of circRTN4 in the kidney or peripheral blood alleviated renal damage in MRL/lpr and BALB/c mice. Clinically, high levels of circRTN4 were found in peripheral blood mononuclear cells and kidney tissues of LN patients, hence serving as an effective biomarker for LN detection and a novel therapeutic target. Our findings indicated that circRTN4 exacerbates mesangial cell dysfunction by activating the miR-513a-5p/FN axis in lupus nephritis.
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