Aryl hydrocarbon receptor agonist, leflunomide, protects the ischemic-reperfused kidney: Role of Tregs and stem cells

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27 Scopus citations


The aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AHR) has emerged as a major modulator of inflammatory processes. We tested the hypothesis that AHR activation protects the ischemic-reperfused kidney in association with the suppression of the inflammatory response. Accordingly, male mice were treated with the nondioxin AHR agonist, leflunomide (40 mg/kg ip); vehicle-treated animals served as controls. Thereafter, the right kidney was subjected to an ischemia (45 min)-reperfusion (4 h) insult, while the left kidney served as a sham control. Renal cells prepared from ischemic-reperfused kidneys of leflunomide-treated mice displayed preservation of mitochondrial membrane potential (Ψm) and decreased apoptosis and necrosis compared with vehicle-treated ischemic-reperfused kidneys. Leflunomide treatment increased regulatory T cells (Tregs; forkhead box P3+) and IL-10-positive cells but reduced IL-17- and IL-23-expressing cells in both the peripheral blood and kidney cells, indicative of down-regulation of inflammatory responses. Leflunomide treatment also increased mobilization of stems cells subsets (i.e., mesenchymal and hematopoietic stem cells and endothelial progenitor cells) in the peripheral blood and promoted their recruitment into the ischemic-reperfused kidney. Collectively, the results indicate that AHR stimulation may represent a novel renoprotective mechanism likely involving mobilization and recruitment of Tregs and stem cells into the damaged kidney.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Dec 10 2012


  • Aryl hydrocarbon receptor
  • Cell death
  • Interleukin
  • Ischemia-reperfusion
  • Kidney
  • Mitochondrial membrane potential
  • Regulatory T cells
  • Stem cells

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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