Acute kidney injury (AKI) is a major public health concern associated with high morbidity and mortality. Despite decades of research, the pathogenesis of AKI remains incompletely understood and effective therapies are lacking. An increasing body of evidence suggests a role for epigenetic regulation in the process of AKI and kidney repair, involving remarkable changes in histone modifications, DNA methylation and the expression of various non-coding RNAs. For instance, increases in levels of histone acetylation seem to protect kidneys from AKI and promote kidney repair. AKI is also associated with changes in genome-wide and gene-specific DNA methylation; however, the role and regulation of DNA methylation in kidney injury and repair remains largely elusive. MicroRNAs have been studied quite extensively in AKI, and a plethora of specific microRNAs have been implicated in the pathogenesis of AKI. Emerging research suggests potential for microRNAs as novel diagnostic biomarkers of AKI. Further investigation into these epigenetic mechanisms will not only generate novel insights into the mechanisms of AKI and kidney repair but also might lead to new strategies for the diagnosis and therapy of this disease.
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