Ultrastructural alterations in endothelial mitochondria are associated with enhanced nitrotyrosine accumulation and progressive reduction of VEGF expression in sequential protocol renal allograft biopsies with calcineurin inhibitor toxicity. Transpl Int. 2010; 23 (4):407-16

Calcineurin inhibitors (cyclosporine and tacrolimus; CNIs) continue to be used as constituents of post-transplant immunosuppression in most centers. However, renal toxicity associated with the use of these drugs remains a problem adversely affecting the long-term graft survival. Fifteen adequate protocol renal allograft biopsies, with histological features of CNI toxicity among 140 protocol biopsies performed at 1-, 6-, and 12-month post-transplant, were included. Mitochondrial alterations in the tubular epithelial cells and endothelia of glomerular, peritubular capillaries and arterioles were graded semiquantitatively and further ultrastructural morphometric evaluation of numerical density and area of the mitochondria was performed. Immunohistochemical staining for nitrotyrosine (marker of peroxynitrite formation) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) was performed and expression graded semiquantitatively. Higher grades of alterations were seen in endothelial mitochondria as compared with tubular mitochondria in biopsies with calcineurin inhibitor toxicity (CNIT). Endothelial mitochondrial numerical density showed progressive decline over 1-, 6- and 12-month biopsies while area showed progressive increase in biopsies with CNIT as compared with controls. Upregulation of nitrotyrosine was seen even at 1-month post-transplant, persisted at 6 and 12 months, and was significantly greater than that in control biopsies. Intense VEGF expression was noted in early CNIT while progressive reduction was seen in 6- and 12-month protocol biopsies. This study shows a relatively high incidence of CNIT in protocol renal allograft biopsies, indicating that this might be an important mechanism of background damage to the allograft. Structural alterations in endothelial mitochondria are consistent findings in protocol biopsies with CNIT and this relatively specific mitochondrial damage may stem from the peroxynitrite-mediated damage associated with progressive loss of protective function of VEGF