The mitochondria-targeted antioxidants and remote kidney preconditioning ameliorate brain damage through kidney-to-brain cross-talk

PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e51553. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0051553. Epub 2012 Dec 14.


Background: Many ischemia-induced neurological pathologies including stroke are associated with high oxidative stress. Mitochondria-targeted antioxidants could rescue the ischemic organ by providing specific delivery of antioxidant molecules to the mitochondrion, which potentially suffers from oxidative stress more than non-mitochondrial cellular compartments. Besides direct antioxidative activity, these compounds are believed to activate numerous protective pathways. Endogenous anti-ischemic defense may involve the very powerful neuroprotective agent erythropoietin, which is mainly produced by the kidney in a redox-dependent manner, indicating an important role of the kidney in regulation of brain ischemic damage. The goal of this study is to track the relations between the kidney and the brain in terms of the amplification of defense mechanisms during SkQR1 treatment and remote renal preconditioning and provide evidence that the kidney can generate signals inducing a tolerance to oxidative stress-associated brain pathologies.

Methodology/principal findings: We used the cationic plastoquinone derivative, SkQR1, as a mitochondria-targeted antioxidant to alleviate the deleterious consequences of stroke. A single injection of SkQR1 before cerebral ischemia in a dose-dependent manner reduces infarction and improves functional recovery. Concomitantly, an increase in the levels of erythropoietin in urine and phosphorylated glycogen synthase kinase-3β (GSK-3β) in the brain was detected 24 h after SkQR1 injection. However, protective effects of SkQR1 were not observed in rats with bilateral nephrectomy and in those treated with the nephrotoxic antibiotic gentamicin, indicating the protective role of humoral factor(s) which are released from functional kidneys. Renal preconditioning also induced brain protection in rats accompanied by an increased erythropoietin level in urine and kidney tissue and P-GSK-3β in brain. Co-cultivation of SkQR1-treated kidney cells with cortical neurons resulted in enchanced phosphorylation of GSK-3β in neuronal cells.

Conclusion: The results indicate that renal preconditioning and SkQR1-induced brain protection may be mediated through the release of EPO from the kidney.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antioxidants / metabolism*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology
  • Erythropoietin / metabolism
  • Gentamicins / pharmacology
  • Immunoassay
  • Infarction, Middle Cerebral Artery
  • Ischemia / pathology
  • Ischemic Preconditioning / methods
  • Kidney / metabolism*
  • Kidney / pathology*
  • Kidney Tubules / pathology
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Plastoquinone / analogs & derivatives
  • Plastoquinone / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rhodamines / pharmacology


  • 10-(6'-plastoquinonyl) decylrhodamine 19
  • Antioxidants
  • Gentamicins
  • Rhodamines
  • Erythropoietin
  • Plastoquinone

Grant support

This study was supported by the Research Institute of Mitoengineering; RFBR grants, 12-04-00025, 11-04-00771 and 11-04-01307; Grant of the President of the Russian Federation MK-729.2012.4. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.