Proximal tubular epithelial cells are highly energy demanding. Their energy need is covered mostly from mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. Whether derailments in fatty acid metabolism and mitochondrial dysfunction are forerunners of tubular damage has been suggested but is not entirely clear. Here we modeled mitochondrial overload by creating mice lacking the enzyme carnitine acetyltransferase (CrAT) in the proximal tubules, thus limiting a primary mechanism to export carbons under conditions of substrate excess. Mice developed tubular disease and, interestingly, secondary glomerulosclerosis. This was accompanied by increased levels of apoptosis regulator and fibrosis markers, increased oxidative stress, and abnormal profiles of acylcarnitines and organic acids suggesting profound impairments in all major forms of nutrient metabolism. When mice with CrAT deletion were fed a high-fat diet, kidney disease was more severe and developed faster. Primary proximal tubular cells isolated from the knockout mice displayed energy deficit and impaired respiration before the onset of pathology, suggesting mitochondrial respiratory abnormalities as a potential underlying mechanism. Our findings support the hypothesis that derailments of mitochondrial energy metabolism may be causative to chronic kidney disease. Our results also suggest that tubular injury may be a primary event followed by secondary glomerulosclerosis, raising the possibility that focusing on normalizing tubular cell mitochondrial function and energy balance could be an important preventative strategy.
- Received January 19, 2018.
- Accepted January 28, 2019.
- © 2019 by the American Diabetes Association.