Intracellular targets in heme protein-induced renal injury

Karl A. Nath, Joseph P. Grande, Anthony J. Croatt, Scott Likely, Robert P. Hebbel, Helen Enright

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

93 Scopus citations


We examined two potential intracellular targets in the glycerol model of acute renal failure, namely, the mitochondrion and the nucleus. Within three hours, alterations in mitochondrial function are already apparent. With either glutamate/malate or succinate/rotenone, state 3 and uncoupled respirations were decreased at three hours, and at 24 hours, such decrements were quite pronounced; in the presence of glutamate/malate, state 2 respiration was also depressed at 24 hours, while with succinate/rotenone state 2 was increased. Marked ultrastructural changes were observed in mitochondria studied at three hours, including the novel finding of degenerate mitochondria in autophagic vacuoles. Since the heme content in mitochondria was increased some tenfold within three hours, mitochondrial function was studied after exposure to concentrations of heme that reproduced such contents of heme: mitochondria initially displayed increased respiration, and subsequently, a persistent decline in oxygen consumption until oxygen consumption was virtually undetectable. With higher concentrations of heme, the early increase in oxygen consumption was blunted and the progressive decline in oxygen consumption was hastened. The antioxidant iron chelator, deferoxamine, prevented the early rise in oxygen consumption but did not prevent or delay the subsequent decline. We also assessed nuclear damage as a potential lesion in the glycerol model. DNA laddering was not observed at any time point. At 3 and 24 hours there was DNA injury by the TUNEL technique in the distal nephron but not in the proximal nephron. The 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine/deoxyguanosine content was increased in the glycerol kidneys at 24 hours but not at three hours. At neither time point was evidence of apoptosis observed by light or electron microscopy. In studies undertaken in cell culture models, heme, at concentrations of 10 μM, failed to evince any such changes in LLC-PK1 cells, a cell line from the proximal tubule, or in MDCK cells, a cell line derived from the distal tubule. At concentrations of 50 μM, heme induced approximately 20% positivity in MDCK cells but none in LLC-PK1 cells by the TUNEL technique. We conclude that mitochondria and nuclei are prominent targets for injury in the glycerol model of acute renal failure. The presence of TUNEL-positive cells in the distal nephron but not at proximal sites in vivo underscores the increasing appreciation of the distinct responses of these nephron sites to nephrotoxic insults.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)100-111
Number of pages12
JournalKidney international
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1998


  • Acute renal failure
  • Heme protein
  • Mitochondrial injury
  • Nuclear damage
  • Renal injury

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nephrology


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