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J Am Soc Nephrol. 2003 Oct;14(10):2534-43.

Identification of neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin as a novel early urinary biomarker for ischemic renal injury.

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Nephrology & Hypertension, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, Ohio 45229-3039, USA.


Acute renal failure (ARF) secondary to ischemic injury remains a common and potentially devastating problem. A transcriptome-wide interrogation strategy was used to identify renal genes that are induced very early after renal ischemia, whose protein products might serve as novel biomarkers for ARF. Seven genes that are upregulated >10-fold were identified, one of which (Cyr61) has recently been reported to be induced after renal ischemia. Unexpectedly, the induction of the other six transcripts was novel to the ARF field. In this study, one of these previously unrecognized genes was further characterized, namely neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL), because it is a small secreted polypeptide that is protease resistant and consequently might be readily detected in the urine. The marked upregulation of NGAL mRNA and protein levels in the early postischemic mouse kidney was confirmed. NGAL protein expression was detected predominantly in proliferating cell nuclear antigen-positive proximal tubule cells, in a punctate cytoplasmic distribution that co-localized with markers of late endosomes. NGAL was easily detected in the urine in the very first urine output after ischemia in both mouse and rat models of ARF. The appearance of NGAL in the urine was related to the dose and duration of renal ischemia and preceded the appearance of other urinary markers such as N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase and beta2-microglobulin. The origin of NGAL from tubule cells was confirmed in cultured human proximal tubule cells subjected to in vitro ischemic injury, where NGAL mRNA was rapidly induced in the cells and NGAL protein was readily detectable in the culture medium within 1 h of mild ATP depletion. NGAL was also easily detectable in the urine of mice with cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity, again preceding the appearance of N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase and beta2-microglobulin. The results indicate that NGAL may represent an early, sensitive, noninvasive urinary biomarker for ischemic and nephrotoxic renal injury.

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