N-acetyl-cysteine increases cellular dysfunction in progressive chronic kidney damage after acute kidney injury by dampening endogenous antioxidant responses

David M. Small, Washington Y. Sanchez, Sandrine F. Roy, Christudas Morais, Heddwen L. Brooks, Jeff S. Coombes, David W. Johnson, Glenda C. Gobe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Oxidative stress and mitochondrial dysfunction exacerbate acute kidney injury (AKI), but their role in any associated progress to chronic kidney disease (CKD) remains unclear. Antioxidant therapies often benefit AKI, but their benefits in CKD are controversial since clinical and preclinical investigations often conflict. Here we examined the influence of the antioxidant N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC) on oxidative stress and mitochondrial function during AKI (20-min bilateral renal ischemia plus reperfusion/IR) and progression to chronic kidney pathologies in mice. NAC (5% in diet) was given to mice 7 days prior and up to 21 days post-IR (21d-IR). NAC treatment resulted in the following: prevented proximal tubular epithelial cell apoptosis at early IR (40-min postischemia), yet enhanced interstitial cell proliferation at 21d-IR; increased transforming growth factor-β1 expression independent of IR time; and significantly dampened nuclear factor-like 2-initiated cytoprotective signaling at early IR. In the long term, NAC enhanced cellular metabolic impairment demonstrated by increased peroxisome proliferator activator-γ serine-112 phosphorylation at 21d-IR. Intravital multiphoton microscopy revealed increased endogenous fluorescence of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NADH) in cortical tubular epithelial cells during ischemia, and at 21d-IR that was not attenuated with NAC. Fluorescence lifetime imaging microscopy demonstrated persistent metabolic impairment by increased free/bound NADH in the cortex at 21d-IR that was enhanced by NAC. Increased mitochondrial dysfunction in remnant tubular cells was demonstrated at 21d-IR by tetramethylrhodamine methyl ester fluorimetry. In summary, NAC enhanced progression to CKD following AKI not only by dampening endogenous cellular antioxidant responses at time of injury but also by enhancing persistent kidney mitochondrial and metabolic dysfunction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)F956-F968
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Renal Physiology
Issue number5
StatePublished - 2018


  • Acute kidney injury
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Intravital multiphoton microscopyoxidative stress
  • Metabolism
  • Mitochondria

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Urology


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