Background: In the past years evidence has been growing about the interconnection of chronic kidney disease and acute kidney injury. The underlying pathophysiological mechanisms remain unclear. We hypothesized, that a threshold ischemia time in unilateral ischemia/reperfusion injury sets an extent of ischemic tubule necrosis, which as "point of no return" leads to progressive injury. This progress is temporarily associated by increased markers of inflammation and results in fibrosis and atrophy of the ischemic kidney.
Methods: Acute tubule necrosis was induced by unilateral ischemia/reperfusion injury in male C57BL/6 N mice with different ischemia times (15, 25, 35, and 45 min). At multiple time points between 15 min and 5 weeks we assessed gene expression of markers for injury, inflammation, and fibrosis, histologically the injury of tubules, cell death (TUNEL), macrophages, neutrophil influx and kidney atrophy.
Results: Unilateral ischemia for 15 and 25 min induced upregulation of markers for injury after reperfusion for 24 h but no upregulation after 5 weeks. None of the markers for inflammation or fibrosis were upregulated after ischemia for 15 and 25 min at 24 h or 5 weeks on a gene expression level, except for Il-6. Ischemia for 35 and 45 min consistently induced upregulation of markers for inflammation, injury, and partially of fibrosis (Tgf-β1 and Col1a1) at 24 h and 5 weeks. The threshold ischemia time for persistent injury of 35 min induced a temporal association of markers for inflammation and injury with peaks between 6 h and 7 d along the course of 10 d. This ischemia time also induced persistent cell death (TUNEL) throughout observation for 5 weeks with a peak at 6 h and progressing kidney atrophy beginning 7 d after ischemia.
Conclusions: This study confirms the evidence of a threshold extent of ischemic injury in which markers of injury, inflammation and fibrosis do not decline to baseline but remain upregulated assessed in long term outcome (5 weeks). Excess of this threshold as "point of no return" leads to persistent cell death and progressing atrophy and is characterized by a temporal association of markers for inflammation and injury.
Keywords: Acute tubule necrosis; Chronic on acute kidney injury; Ischemia/reperfusion injury; Necroinflammation; Renal scarring.