Experiments in mouse models have shown that the complement cascade is activated within the kidney after ischemia-reperfusion and that complement activation contributes to tubular injury in this setting. Less is known, however, about complement activation in human kidneys after ischemia or whether complement activation in the tubulointerstitium can be detected by measurement of complement fragments in the urine. We hypothesized that urine biomarkers of complement activation would rapidly increase in patients who develop ischemic acute kidney injury, signaling complement activation within the kidney. We confirmed that the alternative pathway of complement is activated in the kidneys of mice after ischemia-reperfusion, and we found that levels of factor B fragments (generated during alternative pathway activation) rapidly increase in the urine. We next performed a case-control study in which we measured complement fragments in human urine samples from patients undergoing cardiac surgery using ELISAs. The level of Ba increased after cardiac surgery and was significantly higher in patients who developed acute kidney injury. The increase in Ba also correlated with magnitude of the subsequent rise in serum creatinine and with the need for hemodialysis during the hospitalization. These findings demonstrate that the alternative pathway of complement is activated in patients who develop acute kidney injury after cardiac surgery and that increases in the level of urine Ba may be a predictive and functional biomarker of severe kidney injury.
- acute kidney injury
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