Role of Nrf2 in Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Acute Kidney Injury: Protection by Human Umbilical Cord Blood Mononuclear Cells

Oxid Med Cell Longev. 2020 Jul 28:2020:6123459. doi: 10.1155/2020/6123459. eCollection 2020.


Background: Acute kidney injury (AKI) is one of the common complications of sepsis. Heretofore, there is no effective treatment for septic AKI. Recent studies have revealed that besides treating hematological malignancies, human umbilical cord blood mononuclear cells (hUCBMNCs) show good therapeutic effects on other diseases. But whether hUCBMNCs can protect against septic AKI and its underlying mechanism are unknown.

Methods: The rat model of lipopolysaccharide- (LPS-) induced AKI was developed, and the injection of hUCBMNCs was executed to prevent and treat AKI. ML385, a specific nuclear factor E2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) inhibitor, was used to silence Nrf2. The cell experiments were conducted to elaborate the protective mechanism of Nrf2 pathway.

Results: An effective model of LPS-induced AKI was established. Compared to the rats only with LPS injection, the levels of inflammation, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and apoptosis in renal tissues after hUCBMNC injection were markedly attenuated. Pathological examination also indicated significant remission of renal tissue injury in the LPS+MNCs group, compared to rats in the LPS group. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) showed that the damage of the mitochondria in the LPS+MNCs group was lighter than that in the LPS group. Noteworthily, the renal Nrf2/HO-1 pathway was activated and autophagy was enhanced after hUCBMNC injection. ML385 could partly reverse the renoprotective effect of hUCBMNCs, which could demonstrate that Nrf2 participated in the protection of hUCBMNCs. Cell experiments showed that increasing the expression level of Nrf2 could alleviate LPS-induced cell injury by increasing the autophagy level and decreasing the injury of the mitochondria in HK-2 cells.

Conclusion: All results suggest that hUCBMNCs can protect against LPS-induced AKI via the Nrf2 pathway. Activating Nrf2 can upregulate autophagy to protect LPS-induced cell injury.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury / chemically induced*
  • Acute Kidney Injury / drug therapy*
  • Animals
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear
  • Lipopolysaccharides / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2 / therapeutic use*
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley


  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • NF-E2-Related Factor 2