Assessing Kidney Injury Induced by Mercuric Chloride in Guinea Pigs with In Vivo and In Vitro Experiments

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Apr 18;24(8):7434. doi: 10.3390/ijms24087434.


Acute kidney injury, which is associated with high levels of morbidity and mortality, affects a significant number of individuals, and can be triggered by multiple factors, such as medications, exposure to toxic chemicals or other substances, disease, and trauma. Because the kidney is a critical organ, understanding and identifying early cellular or gene-level changes can provide a foundation for designing medical interventions. In our earlier work, we identified gene modules anchored to histopathology phenotypes associated with toxicant-induced liver and kidney injuries. Here, using in vivo and in vitro experiments, we assessed and validated these kidney injury-associated modules by analyzing gene expression data from the kidneys of male Hartley guinea pigs exposed to mercuric chloride. Using plasma creatinine levels and cell-viability assays as measures of the extent of renal dysfunction under in vivo and in vitro conditions, we performed an initial range-finding study to identify the appropriate doses and exposure times associated with mild and severe kidney injuries. We then monitored changes in kidney gene expression at the selected doses and time points post-toxicant exposure to characterize the mechanisms of kidney injury. Our injury module-based analysis revealed a dose-dependent activation of several phenotypic cellular processes associated with dilatation, necrosis, and fibrogenesis that were common across the experimental platforms and indicative of processes that initiate kidney damage. Furthermore, a comparison of activated injury modules between guinea pigs and rats indicated a strong correlation between the modules, highlighting their potential for cross-species translational studies.

Keywords: KEGG pathways; RNA-seq; guinea pig; mercuric chloride; predictive toxicology; toxicity modules.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Kidney Injury* / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Guinea Pigs
  • Kidney / metabolism
  • Kidney Function Tests
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Male
  • Mercuric Chloride* / toxicity
  • Rats


  • Mercuric Chloride