Autophagy is a highly conserved bulk protein degradation pathway involved in cellular homeostasis. Although emerging evidence indicates involvement of autophagy in various conditions, efforts to clarify the role of autophagy in renal tubules are beginning to be elucidated. In the present study, we examined the hypothesis that autophagy guards against acute kidney injury (AKI) by modulating several deteriorative pathways that lead to tubular cell death using a cisplatin-induced model of AKI. Cisplatin treatment of GFP-LC3 (green fluorescent protein-microtubule-associated protein 1 light chain 3) transgenic mice induced autophagy in kidney proximal tubules in a time-dependent manner. Proximal tubule-specific autophagy-deficient mice exhibited more severe cisplatin-induced AKI than did control mice, as assessed via kidney function and morphologic findings. In addition, cisplatin induced more severe DNA damage and p53 activation, concomitant with an increase in apoptotic cell number, and a massive accumulation of protein aggregates in autophagy-deficient proximal tubules. Cisplatin treatment significantly increased reactive oxygen species-producing damaged mitochondria in immortalized autophagy-deficient proximal tubular cells when compared with autophagy-retrieved control cells. In conclusion, autophagy guards kidney proximal tubules against AKI, possibly by alleviating DNA damage and reactive oxygen species production and by eliminating toxic protein aggregates. Enhancing autophagy may provide a novel therapeutic option to minimize AKI.
Copyright © 2012 American Society for Investigative Pathology. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.