Prolonged cold ischemia (CI) is a risk factor for acute kidney injury after kidney transplantation. We endeavored to determine the pathways involved in the development of tubular cell injury and death before and after transplantation. We hypothesized that ex vivo cold storage before transplant would produce a different injury phenotype to that seen after engraftment in kidney transplants with or without CI.
Four groups of mouse donor kidneys were studied: (1) nontransplanted control kidneys; (2) donor kidneys subjected to ex vivo cold ischemia (CI); (3) donor kidneys subjected to kidney transplant without CI (Txp); and (4) donor kidneys subjected to CI followed by transplantation (CI+Txp).
Acute kidney injury only occurred in the CI+Txp group, which had significantly increased sCr versus the Txp group and the control mice. Histologically, the CI group demonstrated significantly increased tubular cell apoptosis and caspase-9 expression, whereas the Txp group demonstrated only mild brush border injury without apoptosis or necrosis. In contrast, the CI+Txp group had tubular cell apoptosis associated with expression of caspase-8, TNFR1, and increased serum TNF-α. CI+Txp also led to significantly higher ATN scores in association with increased RIP1, RIP3, pMLKL, and TLR4 expression.
Our results suggest distinct therapies are needed at different times during organ preservation and transplantation. Prevention of apoptosis during cold storage is best achieved by inhibiting intrinsic pathways. In contrast, prevention of cell death and innate immunity after CI+Txp requires inhibition of both the extrinsic death receptor pathway via TNFR1 and caspase-8 and inhibition of programmed necrosis via TLR4 and TNFR1.