Lineage Tracing and Single-Nucleus Multiomics Reveal Novel Features of Adaptive and Maladaptive Repair after Acute Kidney Injury

Louisa M.S. Gerhardt, Kari Koppitch, Jordi Van Gestel, Jinjin Guo, Sam Cho, Haojia Wu, Yuhei Kirita, Benjamin D. Humphreys, Andrew P. McMahon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Significance StatementUnderstanding the mechanisms underlying adaptive and maladaptive renal repair after AKI and their long-term consequences is critical to kidney health. The authors used lineage tracing of cycling cells and single-nucleus multiomics (profiling transcriptome and chromatin accessibility) after AKI. They demonstrated that AKI triggers a cell-cycle response in most epithelial and nonepithelial kidney cell types. They also showed that maladaptive proinflammatory proximal tubule cells (PTCs) persist until 6 months post-AKI, although they decreased in abundance over time, in part, through cell death. Single-nucleus multiomics of lineage-traced cells revealed regulatory features of adaptive and maladaptive repair. These included activation of cell state-specific transcription factors and cis-regulatory elements, and effects in PTCs even after adaptive repair, weeks after the injury event.BackgroundAKI triggers a proliferative response as part of an intrinsic cellular repair program, which can lead to adaptive renal repair, restoring kidney structure and function, or maladaptive repair with the persistence of injured proximal tubule cells (PTCs) and an altered kidney structure. However, the cellular and molecular understanding of these repair programs is limited.MethodsTo examine chromatin and transcriptional responses in the same cell upon ischemia-reperfusion injury (IRI), we combined genetic fate mapping of cycling (Ki67+) cells labeled early after IRI with single-nucleus multiomics - profiling transcriptome and chromatin accessibility in the same nucleus - and generated a dataset of 83,315 nuclei.ResultsAKI triggered a broad cell cycle response preceded by cell type-specific and global transcriptional changes in the nephron, the collecting and vascular systems, and stromal and immune cell types. We observed a heterogeneous population of maladaptive PTCs throughout proximal tubule segments 6 months post-AKI, with a marked loss of maladaptive cells from 4 weeks to 6 months. Gene expression and chromatin accessibility profiling in the same nuclei highlighted differences between adaptive and maladaptive PTCs in the activity of cis-regulatory elements and transcription factors, accompanied by corresponding changes in target gene expression. Adaptive repair was associated with reduced expression of genes encoding transmembrane transport proteins essential to kidney function.ConclusionsAnalysis of genome organization and gene activity with single-cell resolution using lineage tracing and single-nucleus multiomics offers new insight into the regulation of renal injury repair. Weeks to months after mild-to-moderate IRI, maladaptive PTCs persist with an aberrant epigenetic landscape, and PTCs exhibit an altered transcriptional profile even following adaptive repair.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)554-571
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2023


  • acute renal failure
  • chronic renal failure
  • clinical nephrology
  • congestive heart failure
  • transcription regulation
  • transcriptional profiling


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