Melatonin protects kidney grafts from ischemia/reperfusion injury through inhibition of NF-kB and apoptosis after experimental kidney transplantation


Address reprint requests to Peter Schemmer, MD, Department of General Surgery, Ruprecht-Karls University, Im Neuenheimer Feld 110, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


Abstract:  Free radicals are involved in pathophysiology of ischemia/reperfusion injury (IRI). Melatonin is a potent scavenger of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. Thus, this study was designed to elucidate its effects in a model of rat kidney transplantation. Twenty Lewis rats were randomly divided into 2 groups (n = 10 animals each). Melatonin (50 mg/kg BW) dissolved in 5 mL milk was given to one group via gavage 2 hr before left donor nephrectomy. Controls were given the same volume of milk only. Kidney grafts were then transplanted into bilaterally nephrectomized syngeneic recipients after 24 hr of cold storage in Histidine–Tryptophan–Ketoglutarate solution. Both graft function and injury were assessed after transplantation through serum levels of blood urea nitrogen (BUN), creatinine, transaminases, and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH). Biopsies were taken to evaluate tubular damage, the enzymatic activity of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and lipid hydroperoxide (LPO), and the expression of NF-kBp65, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), caspase-3 as indices of oxidative stress, necrosis, and apoptosis, respectively. Melatonin improved survival (< 0.01) while decreasing BUN, creatinine, transaminases, and LDH values up to 39–71% (< 0.05). Melatonin significantly reduced the histological index for tubular damage, induced tissue enzymatic activity of SOD while reducing LPO. At the same time, melatonin down-regulated the expression of NF-kBp65, iNOS, and caspase-3. In conclusion, donor preconditioning with melatonin protected kidney donor grafts from IRI-induced renal dysfunction and tubular injury most likely through its anti-oxidative, anti-apoptotic and NF-kB inhibitory capacity.