AP39, A Mitochondrially Targeted Hydrogen Sulfide Donor, Exerts Protective Effects in Renal Epithelial Cells Subjected to Oxidative Stress in Vitro and in Acute Renal Injury in Vivo

Shock. 2016 Jan;45(1):88-97. doi: 10.1097/SHK.0000000000000478.


This study evaluated the effects of AP39 [(10-oxo-10-(4-(3-thioxo-3H-1,2-dithiol-5yl) phenoxy)decyl) triphenyl phosphonium bromide], a mitochondrially targeted donor of hydrogen sulfide (H2S) in an in vitro model of hypoxia/oxidative stress injury in NRK-49F rat kidney epithelial cells (NRK cells) and in a rat model of renal ischemia-reperfusion injury. Renal oxidative stress was induced by the addition of glucose oxidase, which generates hydrogen peroxide in the culture medium at a constant rate. Glucose oxidase (GOx)-induced oxidative stress led to mitochondrial dysfunction, decreased intracellular ATP content, and, at higher concentrations, increased intracellular oxidant formation (estimated by the fluorescent probe 2, 7-dichlorofluorescein, DCF) and promoted necrosis (estimated by the measurement of lactate dehydrogenase release into the medium) of the NRK cells in vitro. Pretreatment with AP39 (30-300 nM) exerted a concentration-dependent protective effect against all of the above effects of GOx. Most of the effects of AP39 followed a bell-shaped concentration-response curve; at the highest concentration of GOx tested, AP39 was no longer able to afford cytoprotective effects. Rats subjected to renal ischemia/reperfusion responded with a marked increase (over four-fold over sham control baseline) blood urea nitrogen and creatinine levels in blood, indicative of significant renal damage. This was associated with increased neutrophil infiltration into the kidneys (assessed by the myeloperoxidase assay in kidney homogenates), increased oxidative stress (assessed by the malondialdehyde assay in kidney homogenates), and an increase in plasma levels of IL-12. Pretreatment with AP39 (0.1, 0.2, and 0.3 mg/kg) provided a dose-dependent protection against these pathophysiological alterations; the most pronounced protective effect was observed at the 0.3 mg/kg dose of the H2S donor; nevertheless, AP39 failed to achieve a complete normalization of any of the injury markers measured. The partial protective effects of AP39 correlated with a partial improvement of kidney histological scores and reduced TUNEL staining (an indicator of DNA damage and apoptosis). In summary, the mitochondria-targeted H2S donor AP39 exerted dose-dependent protective effects against renal epithelial cell injury in vitro and renal ischemia-reperfusion injury in vivo. We hypothesize that the beneficial actions of AP39 are related to the reduction of cellular oxidative stress, and subsequent attenuation of various positive feed-forward cycles of inflammatory and oxidative processes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / prevention & control*
  • Animals
  • Cell Hypoxia / drug effects
  • Cell Hypoxia / physiology
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Cytoprotection / physiology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Evaluation, Preclinical / methods
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mitochondria / drug effects
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / administration & dosage
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / pharmacology*
  • Organophosphorus Compounds / therapeutic use
  • Oxidative Stress / drug effects*
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Thiones / administration & dosage
  • Thiones / pharmacology*
  • Thiones / therapeutic use


  • AP39 compound
  • Organophosphorus Compounds
  • Thiones
  • Hydrogen Sulfide