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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2006 Jan;17(1):17-25. Epub 2005 Nov 16.

Chronic hypoxia and tubulointerstitial injury: a final common pathway to end-stage renal failure.

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  • 1Division of Nephrology and Endocrinology, University of Tokyo School of Medicine, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8655, Japan. mnangaku-tky@umin.ac.jp

Abstract

Recent studies emphasize the role of chronic hypoxia in the tubulointerstitium as a final common pathway to end-stage renal failure. When advanced, tubulointerstitial damage is associated with the loss of peritubular capillaries. Associated interstitial fibrosis impairs oxygen diffusion and supply to tubular and interstitial cells. Hypoxia of tubular cells leads to apoptosis or epithelial-mesenchymal transdifferentiation. This in turn exacerbates fibrosis of the kidney and subsequent chronic hypoxia, setting in train a vicious cycle whose end point is ESRD. A number of mechanisms that induce tubulointerstitial hypoxia at an early stage have been identified. Glomerular injury and vasoconstriction of efferent arterioles as a result of imbalances in vasoactive substances decrease postglomerular peritubular capillary blood flow. Angiotensin II not only constricts efferent arterioles but, via its induction of oxidative stress, also hampers the efficient utilization of oxygen in tubular cells. Relative hypoxia in the kidney also results from increased metabolic demand in tubular cells. Furthermore, renal anemia hinders oxygen delivery. These factors can affect the kidney before the appearance of significant pathologic changes in the vasculature and predispose the kidney to tubulointerstitial injury. Therapeutic approaches that target the chronic hypoxia should prove effective against a broad range of renal diseases. Current modalities include the improvement of anemia with erythropoietin, the preservation of peritubular capillary blood flow by blockade of the renin-angiotensin system, and the use of antioxidants. Recent studies have elucidated the mechanism of hypoxia-induced transcription, namely that prolyl hydroxylase regulates hypoxia-inducible factor. This has given hope for the development of novel therapeutic approaches against this final common pathway.

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