Acute renal failure from ischemia significantly contributes to morbidity and mortality in clinical settings, and strategies to improve renal resistance to ischemia are urgently needed. Here, we identified a novel pathway of renal protection from ischemia using ischemic preconditioning (IP).
Methods and Findings
For this purpose, we utilized a recently developed model of renal ischemia and IP via a hanging weight system that allows repeated and atraumatic occlusion of the renal artery in mice, followed by measurements of specific parameters or renal functions. Studies in gene-targeted mice for each individual adenosine receptor (AR) confirmed renal protection by IP in A1−/−, A2A−/−, or A3AR−/− mice. In contrast, protection from ischemia was abolished in A2BAR−/− mice. This protection was associated with corresponding changes in tissue inflammation and nitric oxide production. In accordance, the A2BAR-antagonist PSB1115 blocked renal protection by IP, while treatment with the selective A2BAR-agonist BAY 60–6583 dramatically improved renal function and histology following ischemia alone. Using an A2BAR-reporter model, we found exclusive expression of A2BARs within the reno-vasculature. Studies using A2BAR bone-marrow chimera conferred kidney protection selectively to renal A2BARs.
These results identify the A2BAR as a novel therapeutic target for providing potent protection from renal ischemia.
Using gene-targeted mice, Holger Eltzschig and colleagues identify the A2B adenosine receptor as a novel therapeutic target for providing protection from renal ischemia.
Throughout life, the kidneys perform the essential task of filtering waste products and excess water from the blood to make urine. Each kidney contains about a million small structures called nephrons, each of which contains a filtration unit consisting of a glomerulus (a small blood vessel) intertwined with a urine-collecting tube called a tubule. If the nephrons stop working for any reason, the rate at which the blood is filtered (the glomerular filtration rate or GFR) decreases and dangerous amounts of waste products such as creatinine build up in the blood. Most kidney diseases destroy the nephrons slowly over years, producing an irreversible condition called chronic renal failure. But the kidneys can also stop working suddenly because of injury or poisoning. One common cause of “acute” renal failure in hospital patients is ischemia—an inadequate blood supply to an organ that results in the death of part of that organ. Heart surgery and other types of surgery in which the blood supply to the kidneys is temporarily disrupted are associated with high rates of acute renal failure.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although the kidneys usually recover from acute failure within a few weeks if the appropriate intensive treatment (for example, dialysis) is provided, acute renal failure after surgery can be fatal. Thus, new strategies to protect the kidneys from ischemia are badly needed. Like other organs, the kidneys can be protected from lethal ischemia by pre-exposure to several short, nonlethal episodes of ischemia. It is not clear how this “ischemic preconditioning” increases renal resistance to ischemia but some data suggest that the protection of tissues from ischemia might involve a signaling molecule called extracellular adenosine. This molecule binds to proteins called receptors on the surface of cells and sends signals into them that change their behavior. There are four different adenosine receptor—A1AR, A2AAR, A2BAR, and A3AR—and in this study, the researchers use ischemic preconditioning as an experimental strategy to investigate which of these receptors protects the kidneys from ischemia in mice, information that might provide clues about how to protect the kidneys from ischemia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first asked whether ischemic preconditioning protects the kidneys of mice strains that lack the genes for individual adenosine receptors (A1AR−/−, A2AAR−/−, A2BAR−/−, and A3AR−/− mice) from subsequent ischemia. Using a hanging-weight system, they intermittently blocked the renal artery of these mice before exposing them to a longer period of renal ischemia. Twenty-four hours later, they assessed the renal function of the mice by measuring their blood creatinine levels, GFRs, and urine production. Ischemic preconditioning protected all the mice from ischemia-induced loss of kidney function except the A2BAR−/− mice. It also prevented ischemia-induced structural damage and inflammation in the kidneys of wild-type but not A2BAR−/− mice. These results suggest that A2BAR may help to protect the kidneys from ischemia. Consistent with this idea, ischemic preconditioning did not prevent ischemia-induced renal damage in wild-type mice treated with a compound that specifically blocks the activity of A2BAR. However, wild-type mice (but not A2BAR−/− mice) treated with an A2BAR agonist (which activates the receptor) retained their kidney function after renal ischemia without ischemic preconditioning. Finally, the researchers report that A2BAR has to be present on the blood vessels in the kidney to prevent ischemia-induced acute renal failure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the protection of the kidneys from ischemia and the renal resistance to ischemia that is provided by ischemic preconditioning involve adenosine signaling through A2BAR. They also suggest that adenosine might provide protection against ischemia-induced damage by blocking inflammation in the kidney although other possible mechanisms of action need to be investigated. Importantly, these findings suggest that A2BAR might be a therapeutic target for the prevention of renal ischemia. However, results obtained in animals do not always reflect the situation in people, so before A2BAR agonists can be used to reduce the chances of patients developing acute renal failure after surgery, these results need confirming in people and the safety of A2BAR agonists need to be thoroughly investigated.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050137.
The US National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases provides information on how the kidneys work and what can go wrong with them, including a list of links to further information about kidney disease
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on acute kidney failure (in English and Spanish)
Wikipedia has pages on acute renal failure, ischemia, ischemic preconditioning, and adenosine (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)