Background: Kidneys derived from brain dead donors have lower graft survival and higher graft-function loss compared to their living donor counterpart. Heat Shock Proteins (HSP) are a large family of stress proteins involved in maintaining cell homeostasis. We studied the role of stress-inducible genes Heme Oxygenase-1 (HO-1), HSP27, HSP40, and HSP70 in the kidney following a 4 hour period of brain death.
Methods: Brain death was induced in rats (n=6) by inflating a balloon catheter in the epidural space. Kidneys were analysed for HSPs using RT-PCR, Western blotting, and immunohistochemistry.
Results: RT-PCR data showed a significant increase in gene expression for HO-1 and HSP70 in kidneys of brain dead rats. Western blotting revealed a massive increase in HO-1 protein in brain dead rat kidneys. Immunohistochemistry confirmed these findings, showing extensive HO-1 protein expression in the renal cortical tubules of brain dead rats. HSP70 protein was predominantly increased in renal distal tubules of brain dead rats treated for hypotension.
Conclusion: Renal stress caused by brain death induces expression of the cytoprotective genes HO-1 and HSP70, but not of HSP27 and HSP40. The upregulation of these cytoprotective genes indicate that renal damage occurs during brain death, and could be part of a protective or recuperative mechanism induced by brain death-associated stress.