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Nephron supply is a major determinant of long term renal allograft outcome in rats


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Nephron supply is a major determinant of

long-term renal allograft outcome in rats.

H S Mackenzie, … , B M Brenner, N L Tilney

J Clin Invest.






The effects of augmenting the nephron supply on indices of allograft injury were assessed

in a rat model of "chronic rejection." Orthotopic renal allotransplantation into

unine-phrectomized rats was followed by excision (allograft-alone group) or preservation of the

remaining native kidney (allograft+native kidney group) such that the total kidney

complement was either the allograft alone, or the allograft plus one retained native kidney.

After 18 wk, values for GFR (1.85 +/- 0.3 ml/min) and kidney weights (2.3 +/- 0.2 g) in

allograft-alone rats were far in excess of corresponding values in the allograft of

allograft+native kidney rats (0.88 +/- 0.1 ml/min and 1.1 +/- 0.5 g, respectively). Proteinuria

(35 +/- 2 mg/d) and allograft glomerulosclerosis (24 +/- 8%) also characterized

allograft-alone but not allograft+native kidney rats, in whom glomerular structure (allograft

glomerulosclerosis, 4 +/- 1%; native kidney glomerulosclerosis, 0%) and glomerular

functional integrity (proteinuria 7 +/- 0.7 mg/d) were well preserved. Thus, the observed

allograft protection derived from the presence of a retained recipient native kidney supports

the hypothesis that a single renal allograft contains insufficient nephrons to prevent

progressive renal injury, implicating nephron supply as a major determinant of long-term

allograft outcome.

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Nephron Supply



Major Determinant

of Long-Term Renal Allograft




Harald S.


Stefan G.Tullius,§UweW.




HelmutG. Rennke,11 Barry M. Brenner,** andNicholas L.Tilneys

* Renal Division, Department of Medicine, and Departments of11Pathology and§ Surgery, Brigham and Women's Hospital;

and*the Harvard Center for the Study of KidneyDiseases,and§Surgical ResearchLaboratories, Harvard Medical School,

Boston, Massachusetts 02115


The effects of augmenting the nephron supplyonindices of

allograft injury were assessed in a ratmodel of "chronic rejection." Orthotopic renalallotransplantation into unine-phrectomizedratswasfollowedbyexcision(allograft-alone group)orpreservationof theremainingnativekidney

(allo-graft + native kidney group) such that the total kidney

complementwas either theallograft alone, ortheallograft plus one retained native kidney. After 18 wk, values for

GFR(1.85±0.3 ml/min)andkidney weights (2.3±0.2 g)in

allograft-aloneratswerefar inexcessofcorresponding

val-uesintheallograftofallograft+native kidneyrats(0.88±0.1 ml/min and 1.1±0.5 g, respectively). Proteinuria (35±2

mg/d) andallograft glomerulosclerosis (24±8%)also char-acterized allograft-alone but not allograft+native kidney

rats, in whom glomerular structure (allograft glomerulo-sclerosis, 4±1%;nativekidney glomerulosclerosis,0%)and

glomerular functional integrity (proteinuria 7±0.7 mg/d)

werewellpreserved. Thus,the observedallograft protection

derived from the presence of a retained recipient native


contains insufficient nephronstopreventprogressive renal

injury, implicating nephron supplyas amajordeterminant of long-term allograft outcome. (J. Clin. Invest. 1994.

94:2148-2152.) Key words: chronic rejection-

transplanta-tion*kidneydiseases glomerularfiltration rate*



Gradual deterioration of renaltransplant function, attributedto

anill-definedprocesstermed "chronicrejection," accountsfor

nearly allcasesof laterenalallograftfailure inhumans,andis

currentlyamajor impedimenttothelong-termsuccessofrenal

Address correspondencetoHarald S. Mackenzie, Renal Division,

De-partment of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital, 75 Francis

Street, Boston, MA 02115.

Received for publication 28 April 1994and in revised form 28 July


transplantation (1).In contrast tothestriking improvementsin

12-morenalallograft survival rates made over recent years, late organ failure rates have remained staticthroughout the entire

transplant experience (2), apparently unaffected by the intro-duction of betterimmunosuppressive regimes.Withoutslowing therateof lateallograftloss,only40% ofnewallografts from cadaver donorscanbeexpectedtosurviveat8.5 yr after

trans-plantation (2, 3). To explore possible factors underlying late

renalallograft loss wehave conducted studies in a rat model of chronic renal allograft failure. The Fisher 344-*Lewis rat

modeloflong-surviving renaltransplantation, first described by White et al. (4), and recently adapted by Diamondetal. (5), is consideredtobe auseful modelof "chronicrejection." As inhumans (6-8), striking similaritiesareevident between the natural history andhistopathological appearances of late allo-graft failure in F344- Lew rats and those sharedby avariety of other conditions also characterized by progressive kidney

failure, e.g.,hypertensive nephropathyorextensivesurgical ab-lation of renalmass(4, 5, 9, 10). Over the past 15 yr, extensive experimental study ofrats with renalmass ablation hasgiven

rise to a unifying theory for the progressive nature of renal disease in conditions such as those listed above (9). A self-perpetuating cycle ofnephronloss isproposedwith

glomerulo-sclerosisasthe eventual consequence ofthecompensatory renal hemodynamic responses toinadequate nephronmass( 11). As theallograft is asingle kidney facing the workload of two, but with arapidly diminishing pool of functioning nephrons, due

toearly losses fromischemia-reperfusion injury,acuterejection, andcyclosporine nephrotoxicity, it may be likenedtothe rem-nant kidney in experimental models where extensive ablation of renalmassinitiatesarapidly progressivecourseof

hemody-namically mediated glomerularinjury.Weproposethat a hemo-dynamically mediatedcycleofprogressive injuryin thesolitary

allograft is an inevitable consequence ofinadequate numbers offunctioningnephrons survivingthe acutesequelae of

trans-plantation ( 12). Thus,wepostulate that supplementing the total numbers of nephrons in the F344-+Lew rat model will slow the tempo ofprogressive injury affectingthe renalallograft by elevating the nephron supply above a critical point beneath which accelerated, progressive nephron injuryislikelyto occur.

To testthis hypothesis we assessed indices of allograft(A)'

1. Abbreviations used in thispaper: A, allograft; A-alone, allograft alone; A+NK,allograftplusnativekidney; GFR, glomerular filtration rate;ERPF, effective renal plasma flow;PAH, para-amino hippurate;

F344,Fisher344 rat; F344 Lew,Fisher 344toLewis renal

transplanta-tion; SBP, systolicblood pressure;FSGS,focal andsegmental

glomeru-losclerosis and hyalinosis.

2148 Mackenzie etal.

J. Clin.Invest.

X The AmericanSociety for Clinical Investigation, Inc.

0021-9738/94/11/2148/05 $2.00


function and allograft injury in two groups of uninephrecto-mized rats prepared either with (A-alone), or without (A +

NK) subsequent excision of the contralateral native kidney (NK) after orthotopic transplantation of a Fisher 344 kidney to

aLewisrecipient. ThusA-alone rats had a totalkidney comple-ment of one, whereasA + NK rats had a totalcomplement of two: theallograft andoneretained nativekidney. This paradigm allows comparisonofallograft injury between one group ofrats

(A+NK)havingapproximately twice the initial total nephron supply of the other (A-alone); yet histocompatibility differ-ences between each group and the total alloantigen load pre-sented to therecipients are kept constant.


Kidney grafting. Under ether anesthesia, the left kidney of each male F344 donor rat was isolated, excised, and cooled. The kidneys were thenpositioned orthotopically in anesthetized, weight-matched Lewis recipients whose left renal vessels had been mobilized, clamped, and the native kidney excised. The donor and recipient renal artery, vein and ureter were eachthen anastomosed end-to-end with 10-0prolene sutures, without the use of ureteral stenting. The contralateral native

kidney was either excised on the 10th post-operative day (A-alone group, n = 15) orpreserved (A + NK group, n= 7).All rats were housed under standard conditions and received standard rodent diet containing 0.48% Na.All rats were treated in accordance with institu-tional guidelines for animal welfare. Serial measurements of systolic blood pressure (SBP) were carried out monthly using the tail-cuff method; urinary protein excretion rates, determined by precipitation withsulfosalicylicacid, were also determined monthly from 24 h urine collectionsfrom individualratsinmetabolic cages.

After 18 wk, clearance studies were carried out. Anesthesia was induced with Brevital (Eli Lilly, Indianapolis, IN), 0.2-0.3 ml, and maintained with Inactin (Byk-Gulden, Konstanz, Germany), 0.1 ml/ 100 gbody weight, i.v. Aftertracheostomy, cannulas were placed in thefemoral veinforthe administration offluidsandinactin,and in the

femoralartery for the continuous measurement ofblood pressure and intermittent bloodsampling.Meanarterial blood pressure was measured

bya Gould transducer and the output displayed on achart recorder. Bovinesalt-pooralbumin(4%)in 0.9%saline, equivalentto0.5%body weight, wasinfusedat 100 ul/min toreplacefluid and protein losses incurredduring surgery. Inulin (7.5%) and 0.75% para-amino hippurate (PAH) in 0.9% salinewere alsoinfusedat20kl/min throughoutthe

experiments.Theallograftwasexposedthroughamidlineincision and the uretercatheterized. Whererequired, therightureter orthebladder wascatheterized to allow collection of urine from the nativekidney.

After a 60-min stabilization period, two 20-min urine samples were

obtained with bloodsamplingatthemidpointof each clearanceperiod.

Urine volumesweredeterminedgravimetrically.Concentrations of inu-lin in blood andplasmaweredeterminedbyananthronemethod;

con-centrations of PAHweredeterminedbyacolorimetric method. In three A-alone rats, clearances couldnotbeobtainedfortechnicalreasons.A further threerats in this group werealso excludedfrom studydue to

the presence of moderatehydronephrosis. Asmall number of A-alone (n=5)andA +NK (n=5)rats wereavailable forstudyofproteinuria

1 yr aftertransplantation.

After the clearance studies, the kidneys were removed, fixed in

phosphate-buffered formalin (10%), stainedusing the Periodic Acid-Schiffmethod, andprepared forhistopathologic evaluation. The fre-quency of focal andsegmentalsclerosis andhyalinosiswasdetermined byexaminingallglomerularprofilescontained withinone or twocoronal sectionsfrom eachkidneysuch thatonaverage 154±22glomeruliwere

counted for eachkidney (range: 54-400).Thefrequencyofglomeruli

with focal and segmental sclerotic lesions was then expressed as a

percentage of the total number ofglomerulicounted.

All data are presented as mean±SEM. Statistical comparisons were



C' 80


.r-0 60





. 0






* A+NK



3 8 12 16 52

weeks post transplantation

Figure 1. Urinary protein excretion from the solitary allograft (A-alone, n=9) is depicted by the shaded columns and from rats in the A+NK group (n =7) by the solid columns. At 12wk,A-aloneprotein excretion ratesbecamesignificantly greater than at week 3, at which point values for A+NKand A-alone were similar. Beyond week 3, UprotV was

significantlylower in A+NK than in A-alone rats. Data at 52 wk are from separate groups of identically prepared F344-*Lew rats. (t P

<0.05vs.week3;*P<0.05 vs.A-aloneby ANOVA andSheff6's


made using t testsforunpaired data, oranalysis of variance followed by Scheff6's test, as appropriate (13).


The evolutionof proteinuria is shown in Fig. 1 and, in the A-alone group,is characteristicof thepatternpreviously reported for this model (5). Over 16 wk, protein excretion in the A-alone group increased progressively, a trend also evident in

those fewrats surviving at 1 yr. Proteinuria indicates loss of

the integrity of the glomerular filtration barrier and has

pre-viously been associated with the presence of focal glomerulo-sclerosis in F344 -- Lewrats with



(5), and

inratswith experimentalrenal massablation (11).In contrast,

the level ofprotein excretion from theA + NKrats remained

at near-normal levels, even in those rats studied at one year

(Fig. 1). SBP, whiletendingtobegreaterinthe A-alonegroup whencomparedwith A+NK rats, didnotshowatrendtowards

progressiveincrease;ratherSBPremainedatsomewhat elevated levels throughout the study period, without attaining overtly hypertensive values (Fig. 2). Under anesthesia, mean arterial pressure for the A-alone groupwas 114±8mmHg,numerically

higher but not significantly different to that for the A + NK group, 103+±6.FromsimilarbodyweightsforA-alone(254±9

g) and A+NKrecipients(242±17 g)atthetime of

transplanta-tion, rats grew at similar rates reaching comparable body




* A+NK







a: Ti





4 12 14 16 52


Figure 2. Systolic bloodpressurein thesolitaryallograftgroup (A-alone,n =9)isdepicted bythe shaded columns and fromratsin the A+NKgroup(n =7) bythe solid columns. Whileatrend is evident for

A-alone SBPtobegreaterthan that for the A+NK rats, atnopoint

doesasignificantdifference between thegroups emerge.Dataat52wk

arefromseparategroupsofidentically preparedF344-*Lewrats.

rats, notsignificantlydifferent from 378±23gfor the A +NK

group.Asshown inFig. 3A, thepresenceof the nativekidney

limited thecompensatory increases in GFR in the allograftof A + NK ratsrelative tothat seenin the solitary allograft

(A-alone). Similarly, effective renal plasmaflow rate (ERPF) in

A-aloneallografts (5.0±1.1ml/min)wasfar inexcessofvalues for the allograftin the A + NK group (2.4±0.5), dueto the

presenceof the retained nativekidney (ERPF5.6±1.4ml/min).

In addition to this comparative freedom from hyperfiltration

andhyperperfusion, by 16-18 wk theallograftin A +NKrats


hypertrophy,asevident fromwetkidney weightsdeterminedat

theconclusion of the clearance studies(Fig.3B),whereas the

solitaryallografts (A-alone) exhibited markedhypertrophy. In additiontoavertingcompensatorygrowthandhyperfunctionin theallograft, thepresence of the nativekidneyalsosparedthe

allograftin A + NKratsfrom glomerular injury. Only4±1% ofglomeruliin the A+NKallograftsat18 wk showed evidence of FSGS in comparisonwith24±8% in the A-alone allografts (P < 0.05 by unpairedttest). Furthermore, tubulo-interstitial architecture was well preserved and the intensity of

mononu-clear interstitial cell infiltrate was minimal in the A + NK


com-parison,amoderate, patchymononuclear cellinfiltratewas seen

throughout the interstitium ofthe A-alone allografts. Indeed,

the histopathologic appearances ofthe allografts in A + NK

ratsweresuchthat,withoneexception, theywerelittle different

from those of normalkidneys. As shown in Fig. 4, theextent

of focal andsegmentalsclerosis andhyalinosis evident in

glo-meruli from thesolitary allografts (A-alone) showed

consider-ablevariation withmanyshowingsevere,extensive

glomerulo-sclerosis. Three A-alone rats noted to have a mild degree of

allograft hydronephrosis are also included in this figure,

al-thoughthese datapointsareexcluded fromcomputationof the











A-alone A+NK



A-alone allograft A+NK nativekidney

A+NK allograft

Figure3. Glomerular filtrationratesandkidney weightsat18wk.(A) Mean GFR from A-alonerats(n= 9)in theleft, hatchedcolumn is considerablyless than total GFR for A+NKrats(n =7),butappears greaterthan therangeof leftkidney GFRs determinedunder identical conditions innormal, 2-kidneyLewisrats(n =3),asindicatedbythe

horizontal broken lines. TotalA+NKGFR isdepicted bytheright column, divided into allograft (solid) and native kidney (cross-hatched)

components.GFR for the allograftin A+NKratsissignificantlyless

thanthat of the nativekidney,and isalso less than that ofA-alone. *P

<0.05vs.A-alone;tp< 0.05vs.A+NK(total); tP< 0.05vs.NK:

bysinglefactoranalysisof variance andSheffe'stest.(B)Total renal

mass wasnotsignificantly different between A-aloneand A+NK

groups.Nativekidney weightwassignificantlygreaterthanallograft weight in A+NKrats,and A+NK allograft weightwassignificantly

lessthan that for theA-aloneallograftwhichappearedgreaterthan the

rangeofkidney weightsfromnormal, 2-kidneyLewisrats(n =3),as

shownbythehorizontalbroken lines. *P< 0.05vs. A-alone; YP< 0.05vs.NK: bysinglefactoranalysis ofvarianceandSheffe'stest.

A-alone mean.In twoinstances, mildhydronephrosis (kidney macroscopically of normalappearance; ureterdilated <5mm

proximal to anastomosis) was discernible in vivo at thetime

of the clearance studies; in the third case, identification was

made by the pathologist from thepresence ofdilated tubules on histological examination. Thus, at least in these three

in-stances,the presenceof occulthydronephrosis appearedtobe associated withrelatively highlevels ofglomerulosclerosis.

In-terestingly, the allograft showing the most severe, extensive

FSGS (; 90%) came from a rat in whom marked systemic hypertension (SBP> 180mmHg)wasdocumented2wkbefore

acutestudy. Bymarkedcontrast,thenativekidneys ofA+NK

rats showed noevidence ofglomerularinjury whatsoever and

wereessentiallynormal inappearance.


The finding that renal mass reduction leads to a process of

self-perpetuating renal injury, typified by the histopathologic

2150 Mackenzieetal.







0 U) U)















Figure4. Glomerulosclerosis in individual rats at 18 wk. Each data point represents the proportion of glomeruli showing evidence of seg-mental or globalsclerosis in individual rats. Allografts from A+NK ratsaveraged4+1%glomerulosclerosis. By contrast, A-alone glomeruli showedgreatly elevated levels of glomerulosclerosis,24±8%,and con-siderably grater variation. The open circles depict rats found to have mildhydronephrosis at the time of acute study which were excluded from computation of the mean. *P < 0.05 by Student's t test for

un-paired values.

appearanceof focal and segmental glomerulosclerosisand

hya-linosis is well established. Although not all are agreed upon

the underlying mechanisms, FSGS may be considered as the pathological hallmark of progressive, hemodynamically

medi-ated glomerular injury (10). In this study, we show that the

evolution of chronic


in the F344-- Lew renal


is,to alarge extent, mediated byprocesses arisingas a conse-quence of inadequate nephron supply. The data also provide

the first demonstration that the converse of the renal

mass-reduction paradigm applies, i.e., prevention ofprogressive renal

failure and FSGSmaybeachievedby renalmassaugmentation in a setting where a moderate deficit in nephron supply of

somewhat more than 50% exists. These findings arein accor-dance with ourhypothesis that hemodynamicfactorscontribute significantly tochronic renal allograft injury. Recentreportsin

the F344 -- Lew model


further support forthis view.



pressures in the F344-+Lew

(soli-tary)allograft provide estimates of glomerular capillary hydrau-licpressurethatareclearly elevated withrespecteitherto unop-eratedF344controls or toF344isografts, independent of levels ofsystemic bloodpressure (14). Prolonged study of isografts

has revealed thatafter periods of 1 yr, proteinuria and FSGS

develop (15), accompanied by profiles of cellular infiltration and cytokine activity similar to those previously documented

in the F344 -b Lew


(16). This


suggests that whereascrossingtheimmunebarriermayadvance and

acceler-atetheinjuryprocess in allotransplanted rats,perhaps through

the initialepisode ofacuterejection (4, 5), the features of the injury processes in allografts, isografts, and remnant kidneys

areultimately quitesimilar.In supportof thispossibility, immu-nohistochemical staining reveals qualitative similarities

be-tweenthe appearances ofinfiltratingcells andcytokine

expres-sion in remnant kidneys and single allografts, irrespective of whethertheremnantkidneyswereallogeneic, isogeneic,or

na-tive in origin, implying that more similarities than diversities existamongtheinjuryprocessesunderlyinglatefailure of allo-grafts, isoallo-grafts, andremnantkidneys (17).

Whileidentification ofthemechanismsunderlying the

pro-tective effects of renal mass supplementation on the F344 -+

Lew allograft is the subject of furtherstudies underwayin our

laboratories, the strikingly beneficial effects of augmenting the nephron supply nevertheless prompt the question: to what extent do hemodynamically mediated injury processes contribute to

late allograft failure in clinical transplantation? A variety of observations, when taken together, support the notion that in

patients, inadequate nephron supply does indeed influence late renal allograft outcome. In humans as in rodents, the greater the degree of ablation of renal mass, the greater the ultimate severity of hypertension, proteinuria, and eventual glomerulo-sclerosis (12). By analogy, the poorer long-term clinical

out-comeencountered after long cold-ischemia times (18)or more

frequent episodes of acute rejection (19-22), may represent

theeventual consequence of fewer and fewer nephrons surviv-ing these early events. Body and kidney size discrepancies

be-tween donor and recipient may also be expected toinfluence the shortfall between the supply of nephrons and the demands placed upon them (12, 21); individual differences in body weight, surface area, and kidney weights in humans are highly correlated withnumbers ofglomeruli present per kidney (22, 23). Recent preliminary reports suggest that donor-to-recipient body surface area ratios of < 0.8 are associated with poorer early and lategraft function (24), and that kidney-to-recipient body weight ratiosof < 2.5 g/kg predict a 5-yr allograft sur-vival rate of 48%, whereas ratios of 2 3.5 g/kg are associated with5-yr survival rates of 71% (25). Comparison of transplant registry data among demographic groups differing in their renal-to-body weight ratios also reveals that the subtle but consistent shortfalls intotal renal mass andnephron numbers in females relative to males (12, 26-28), and in the US population of African descent relative to Caucasians (29, 30), are associated with clear trends for donor kidneys originating from these groups tohave poorer survival rates, irrespective of recipient

race or gender. The outcome of transplanting kidneys from donors at the extremes of age, where filtration surface area is limited,asinearly childhood, or due to age-related glomerulo-sclerosis, is also worse than for donors of intermediate ages (31, 32) although transplantation of both kidneys from pediatric donors may, in some instances at least, abolish this


Theconsistency of these trends, observedacross adiversity of histocompatibility factors in clinical transplantation, lends supporttotheconcept thattheallograft-to-recipient body weight ratio, and hence the number of nephrons supplied perunit

recipi-ent body mass, is animportant independent factor influencing

lateoutcome, in keeping withthehypothesis thattheadaptive responses ofnephrons to inadequate renal mass contribute to the late failure of renal allografts. Since we postulate that the vicious cycle of hemodynamically mediated glomerular injury is "primed" in theallograft, by virtue of initial nephron losses, it mayserve as apositive feedback mechanism amplifying the deleterious effects ofother factors such asnephronlossthrough cyclosporine nephrotoxicity or ongoing, alloantigen-specific,

immune-mediatedinjury, which, by themselves, maycause

in-jury or relatively low-grade intensity. By aiming therapeutic

interventiontotargetspecifically thispositivefeedback mecha-nism,it seems reasonable toanticipatehighly effectiveresults, despitethelikely multifactorialnatureoftheprocessesinitiating

chronic renal allograft injury. Dietary

protein restriction,

for example, as reported in some small clinical studies (34, 35),




for the F344-- Lew model (36), may ameliorate

or slow the progression of chronic renal allograftfailure. The value of matching kidney todonor body size ratios is an addi-tional measure whichshouldclearly also be addressed in clinical studies. Implementation of such relatively inexpensive

mea-sures, if indeedproven effective, could have immediate rele-vance to conservation of function and viability of renal allo-grafts in clinical practice.

In summary, we have demonstrated a substantial protective effect of increasing total nephron supply on indices of chronic

allograft injury

intheF344-- Lewmodelof late


fail-ure. This implies that chronic allograft injury in this model is,

to a large extent, associated with processes arising from the

renal responses to inadequate nephron supply, and, conversely, that duetopermanent losses ofnephrons through acute injury, thesingle allograft often providesaninadequate supply of neph-ronswith which to meet the metabolic demands of therecipient.


Wewish to thank Julia L. Troy,MiguelA.Zayas,and Deborah Sand-strom for experttechnical assistance.

This work wassupported by U.S. Public Health Service grants 9 R01 DK-461 90-20, DK-35930, and 30410. S.G. Tullius and U.W. Heemann were recipients of researchfellowships Tu 63/1-1 and He 1906/2-1 fromthe DeutscheForschungsgemeinschaft.


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