Evidence for involvement of nonesterified fatty acid-induced protonophoric uncoupling during mitochondrial dysfunction caused by hypoxia and reoxygenation

Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2009 Jan;24(1):43-51. doi: 10.1093/ndt/gfn436. Epub 2008 Aug 1.


Background: Proximal tubules subjected to hypoxia in vitro under conditions relevant to ischaemia in vivo develop an energetic deficit that is not corrected even after full reoxygenation. We have provided evidence that accumulation of nonesterified fatty acids (NEFA) is the primary reason for this energetic deficit. In this study, we have further investigated the mechanism for the NEFA-induced energetic deficit.

Methods: Mitochondrial membrane potential (Deltapsi) was measured in digitonin-permeabilized, freshly isolated proximal tubules by safranin O uptake. Addition of the potassium/proton exchanger nigericin enables the determination of the mitochondrial proton motive force (Deltap) and the proton gradient (DeltapH). ATP was measured luminometrically and NEFA colorimetrically.

Results: Tubule ATP content was depleted after hypoxia and recovered incompletely, even after full reoxygenation. Mitochondrial safranin O uptake was decreased in proximal tubules after hypoxia and reoxygenation (H/R). This decrease was attenuated by delipidated bovine serum albumin (dBSA) or citrate. Addition of nigericin increased safranin O uptake of mitochondria in normoxic proximal tubules, but not in proximal tubules after H/R. Addition of dBSA restored the effect of nigericin to increase mitochondrial safranin O uptake. Addition of the NEFA oleate had the same impact on mitochondrial safranin O uptake as subjecting proximal tubules to H/R.

Conclusion: The mechanism of the NEFA-induced energetic deficit in freshly isolated rat proximal tubules induced by H/R is characterized by impaired ATP production after full reoxygenation, impaired recovery of Deltapsi and Deltap, abrogation of DeltapH and sensitivity to citrate, consistent with involvement of the tricarboxylate carrier. The data support the concept that protonophoric uncoupling by NEFA movement on anion carriers plays a critical role in proximal tubule mitochochondrial dysfunction after H/R.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Citric Acid / pharmacology
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified / pharmacology
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / drug effects
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / injuries
  • Kidney Tubules, Proximal / metabolism*
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial* / drug effects
  • Oleic Acid / pharmacology
  • Proton-Motive Force / drug effects
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Reperfusion Injury / metabolism


  • Fatty Acids, Nonesterified
  • Citric Acid
  • Oleic Acid
  • Adenosine Triphosphate
  • L-Lactate Dehydrogenase