The pathophysiology of acute kidney injury (AKI) after cardiac surgery is not completely understood. Recent evidence suggests a pivotal role for the endothelium in AKI. In experimental models of AKI, the endothelial specific receptor Tie2 with its ligands Angiopoietin (Ang) 1 and Ang2 are deranged. This study investigates their status after cardiac surgery, and a possible relation between angiopoietins and AKI.
From a cohort of 541 patients that underwent cardiac surgery, blood and urine was collected at 5 predefined time points. From this cohort we identified 21 patients who had at least 50% post-operative serum creatinine increase (AKI). We constructed a control group (n = 21) using propensity matching. Systemic levels of Ang1, Ang2, and sTie2 were measured in plasma and the AKI markers albumin, kidney injury molecule-1 (KIM-1) and N-acetyl-beta-D-glucosaminidase (NAG) were measured in the urine.
Ang2 plasma levels increased over time in AKI (from 4.2 to 11.6 ng/ml) and control patients (from 3.0 to 6.7 ng/ml). Ang2 levels increased 1.7-fold more in patients who developed AKI after cardiac surgery compared to matched control patients. Plasma levels of sTie2 decreased 1.6-fold and Ang1 decreased 3-fold over time in both groups, but were not different between AKI and controls (Ang1 P = 0.583 and sTie2 P = 0.679). Moreover, we found a positive correlation between plasma levels of Ang2 and urinary levels of NAG.
The endothelial Ang/Tie2 system is in dysbalance in patients that develop AKI after cardiac surgery compared to matched control patients.