Antioxidant and protective effects of silymarin on ischemia and reperfusion injury in the kidney tissues of rats

Int Urol Nephrol. 2008;40(2):453-60. doi: 10.1007/s11255-008-9365-4.


Background: Renal ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury is a major cause of acute renal failure. Silymarin is extracted from Silybum marianum and Cynara cardunculus seeds and fruits. The aim of this study is to investigate whether silymarin administration prevents the damage induced by I/R in rat kidneys.

Materials and methods: Thirty male Wistar rats were randomly divided into five experimental groups (n = 6, each) as follows; control group, sham-operated group, I/R group, silymarin group, and I/R + silymarin group. In the I/R and I/R + silymarin groups, both renal arteries were occluded using nontraumatic microvascular clamps for 45 min. Then, at the end of 24 h of reperfusion, the animals were killed. Kidney function tests, the serum and tissue antioxidant enzymes and oxidant products were determined.

Results: Animals that were subjected to I/R exhibited significant increase in serum urea, creatinine, and cystatin C levels compared with the rats treated with silymarin prior to the I/R process (P < 0.001). The serum enzymatic activities of superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase significantly decreased in the I/R group; however, this reduction was significantly improved by the treatment with silymarin (P < 0.001 and P < 0.05, respectively). Renal I/R produced a significant increase in serum and tissue malondialdehyde, nitric oxide, and protein carbonyl as compared with controls. Treatment with silymarin resulted in significant reduction in these markers (P < 0.001).

Conclusion: Based on our findings, silymarin protects the kidneys against I/R injury. This finding may provide a basis for the development of novel therapeutic strategies for protection against the damages caused by I/R.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / therapeutic use
  • Cystatin C
  • Cystatins / blood
  • Kidney / blood supply
  • Kidney / drug effects*
  • Kidney / enzymology
  • Kidney Tubules / pathology
  • Male
  • Necrosis
  • Phytotherapy
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / therapeutic use
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Reperfusion Injury / prevention & control*
  • Silymarin / pharmacology*
  • Silymarin / therapeutic use


  • Antioxidants
  • Cst3 protein, rat
  • Cystatin C
  • Cystatins
  • Plant Extracts
  • Silymarin