Abstract

Renal transplants remain a medical challenge, because the parameters governing allograft outcome are incompletely identified. Here, we investigated the role of serum iron in the sterile inflammation that follows kidney ischemia-reperfusion injury. In a retrospective cohort study of renal allograft recipients (n=169), increased baseline levels of serum ferritin reliably predicted a positive outcome for allografts, particularly in elderly patients. In mice, systemic iron overload protected against renal ischemia-reperfusion injury-associated sterile inflammation. Furthermore, chronic iron injection in mice prevented macrophage recruitment after inflammatory stimuli. Macrophages cultured in high-iron conditions had reduced responses to Toll-like receptor-2, -3, and -4 agonists, which associated with decreased reactive oxygen species production, increased nuclear localization of the NRF2 transcription factor, increased expression of the NRF2-related antioxidant response genes, and limited NF-κB and proinflammatory signaling. In macrophage-depleted animals, the infusion of macrophages cultured in high-iron conditions did not reconstitute AKI after ischemia-reperfusion, whereas macrophages cultured in physiologic iron conditions did. These findings identify serum iron as a critical protective factor in renal allograft outcome. Increasing serum iron levels in patients may thus improve prognosis of renal transplants.

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