Bioenergetic maladaptation and release of HMGB1 in calcineurin inhibitor-mediated nephrotoxicity

Anna A. Zmijewska, Jaroslaw W. Zmijewski, Eugene J. Becker, Gloria A. Benavides, Victor Darley-Usmar, Roslyn B. Mannon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Calcineurin inhibitors (CNIs) are potent immunosuppressive agents, universally used following solid organ transplantation to prevent rejection. Although effective, the long-term use of CNIs is associated with nephrotoxicity. The etiology of this adverse effect is complex, and effective therapeutic interventions remain to be determined. Using a combination of in vitro techniques and a mouse model of CNI-mediated nephrotoxicity, we found that the CNIs, cyclosporine A (CsA), and tacrolimus (TAC) share a similar mechanism of tubular epithelial kidney cell injury, including mitochondrial dysfunction and release of High-Mobility Group Box I (HMGB1). CNIs promote bioenergetic reprogramming due to mitochondrial dysfunction and a shift toward glycolytic metabolism. These events were accompanied by diminished cell-to-cell adhesion, loss of the epithelial cell phenotype, and release of HMGB1. Notably, Erk1/2 inhibitors effectively diminished HMGB1 release, and similar inhibitor was observed on inclusion of pan-caspase inhibitor zVAD-FMK. In vivo, while CNIs activate tissue proremodeling signaling pathways, MAPK/Erk1/2 inhibitor prevented nephrotoxicity, including diminished HMGB1 release from kidney epithelial cells and accumulation in urine. In summary, HMGB1 is an early indicator and marker of progressive nephrotoxicity induced by CNIs. We suggest that proremodeling signaling pathway and loss of mitochondrial redox/bioenergetics homeostasis are crucial therapeutic targets to ameliorate CNI-mediated nephrotoxicity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2964-2977
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Transplantation
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • animal models: murine
  • basic (laboratory) research / science
  • immunosuppressant - calcineurin inhibitor (CNI)
  • kidney transplantation / nephrology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Transplantation
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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