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Mol Med Rep. 2019 Apr;19(4):3168-3178. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2019.9970. Epub 2019 Feb 19.

Astaxanthin ameliorates renal interstitial fibrosis and peritubular capillary rarefaction in unilateral ureteral obstruction.

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Department of Nephrology, Xi'an No. 4 Hospital, Xi'an, Shaanxi 710004, P.R. China.


Loss of peritubular capillaries is a notable feature of progressive renal interstitial fibrosis. Astaxanthin (ASX) is a natural carotenoid with various biological activities. The present study aimed to evaluate the effect of ASX on unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO)‑induced renal fibrosis in mice. For that purpose, mice were randomly divided into five treatment groups: Sham, ASX 100 mg/kg, UUO, UUO + ASX 50 mg/kg and UUO + ASX 100 mg/kg. ASX was administered to the mice for 7 or 14 days following UUO. The results demonstrated that UUO‑induced histopathological changes in the kidney tissue were prevented by ASX. Renal function was improved by ASX treatment, as evidenced by decreased blood urea nitrogen and serum creatinine levels. Furthermore, the extent of renal fibrosis and collagen deposition induced by UUO was suppressed by ASX. The levels of collagen I, fibronectin and α‑smooth muscle actin were increased by UUO in mice or by transforming growth factor (TGF)‑β1 treatment in NRK‑52E cells, and were reduced by ASX administration. In addition, ASX inhibited the UUO‑induced decrease in peritubular capillary density by upregulating vascular endothelial growth factor and downregulating thrombospondin 1 levels. Inactivation of the TGF‑β1/Smad signaling pathway was involved in the anti‑fibrotic mechanism of ASX in UUO mice and TGF‑β1‑treated NRK‑52E cells. In conclusion, ASX attenuated renal interstitial fibrosis and peritubular capillary rarefaction via inactivation of the TGF‑β1/Smad signaling pathway.

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