BackgroundThis study aimed to understand the mechanistic role of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (NMDAR) in acute fibrogenesis using models of in vivo ureter obstruction and in vitro TGF-β administration.MethodsAcute renal fibrosis (RF) was induced in mice by unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO). Histological changes were observed using Masson’s trichrome staining. The expression levels of NR1, which is the functional subunit of NMDAR, and fibrotic and epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition markers were measured by immunohistochemical and Western blot analysis. HK-2 cells were incubated with TGF-β, and NMDAR antagonist MK-801 and Ca2+/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II (CaMKII) antagonist KN-93 were administered for pathway determination. Chronic RF was introduced by sublethal ischemia–reperfusion injury in mice, and NMDAR inhibitor dextromethorphan hydrobromide (DXM) was administered orally.ResultsThe expression of NR1 was upregulated in obstructed kidneys, while NR1 knockdown significantly reduced both interstitial volume expansion and the changes in the expression of α-smooth muscle actin, S100A4, fibronectin, COL1A1, Snail, and E-cadherin in acute RF. TGF-β1 treatment increased the elongation phenotype of HK-2 cells and the expression of membrane-located NR1 and phosphorylated CaMKII and extracellular signal–regulated kinase (ERK). MK801 and KN93 reduced CaMKII and ERK phosphorylation levels, while MK801, but not KN93, reduced the membrane NR1 signal. The levels of phosphorylated CaMKII and ERK also increased in kidneys with obstruction but were decreased by NR1 knockdown. The 4-week administration of DXM preserved renal cortex volume in kidneys with moderate ischemic–reperfusion injury.ConclusionsNMDAR participates in both acute and chronic renal fibrogenesis potentially via CaMKII-induced ERK activation.