Spatiotemporal ATP Dynamics during AKI Predict Renal Prognosis

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2020 Oct 12;ASN.2020050580. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2020050580. Online ahead of print.


Background: Depletion of ATP in renal tubular cells plays the central role in the pathogenesis of kidney diseases. Nevertheless, inability to visualize spatiotemporal in vivo ATP distribution and dynamics has hindered further analysis.

Methods: A novel mouse line systemically expressing an ATP biosensor (an ATP synthase subunit and two fluorophores) revealed spatiotemporal ATP dynamics at single-cell resolution during warm and cold ischemic reperfusion (IR) with two-photon microscopy. This experimental system enabled quantification of fibrosis 2 weeks after IR and assessment of the relationship between the ATP recovery in acute phase and fibrosis in chronic phase.

Results: Upon ischemia induction, the ATP levels of proximal tubule (PT) cells decreased to the nadir within a few minutes, whereas those of distal tubule (DT) cells decreased gradually up to 1 hour. Upon reperfusion, the recovery rate of ATP in PTs was slower with longer ischemia. In stark contrast, ATP in DTs was quickly rebounded irrespective of ischemia duration. Morphologic changes of mitochondria in the acute phase support the observation of different ATP dynamics in the two segments. Furthermore, slow and incomplete ATP recovery of PTs in the acute phase inversely correlated with fibrosis in the chronic phase. Ischemia under conditions of hypothermia resulted in more rapid and complete ATP recovery with less fibrosis, providing a proof of concept for use of hypothermia to protect kidney tissues.

Conclusions: Visualizing spatiotemporal ATP dynamics during IR injury revealed higher sensitivity of PT cells to ischemia compared with DT cells in terms of energy metabolism. The ATP dynamics of PTs in AKI might provide prognostic information.

Keywords: AKI; ATP; energy dynamics; fibrosis; hypothermia; imaging.