Tumor Lysis Syndrome and AKI: Beyond Crystal Mechanisms

J Am Soc Nephrol. 2022 Jun;33(6):1154-1171. doi: 10.1681/ASN.2021070997. Epub 2022 May 6.


Background: The pathophysiology of AKI during tumor lysis syndrome (TLS) is not well understood due to the paucity of data. We aimed to decipher crystal-dependent and crystal-independent mechanisms of TLS-induced AKI.

Methods: Crystalluria, plasma cytokine levels, and extracellular histones levels were measured in two cohorts of patients with TLS. We developed a model of TLS in syngeneic mice with acute myeloid leukemia, and analyzed ultrastructural changes in kidneys and endothelial permeability using intravital confocal microscopy. In parallel, we studied the endothelial toxicity of extracellular histones in vitro. RESULTS: The study provides the first evidence that previously described crystal-dependent mechanisms are insufficient to explain TLS-induced AKI. Extracellular histones that are released in huge amounts during TLS caused profound endothelial alterations in the mouse model. The mechanisms of histone-mediated damage implicates endothelial cell activation mediated by Toll-like receptor 4. Heparin inhibits extracellular histones and mitigates endothelial dysfunction during TLS.

Conclusion: This study sheds new light on the pathophysiology of TLS-induced AKI and suggests that extracellular histones may constitute a novel target for therapeutic intervention in TLS when endothelial dysfunction occurs.

Keywords: acute renal failure; endothelium; histones; tumor lysis syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury* / therapy
  • Animals
  • Endothelium
  • Histones
  • Humans
  • Kidney
  • Mice
  • Tumor Lysis Syndrome* / drug therapy
  • Tumor Lysis Syndrome* / etiology


  • Histones