Background: Inflammation is a key driver of the transition of acute kidney injury to progressive fibrosis and chronic kidney disease (AKI-to-CKD transition). Blocking a-disintegrin-and-metalloprotease-17 (ADAM17)-dependent ectodomain shedding, in particular of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) ligands and of the type 1 inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor (TNF), reduces pro-inflammatory and pro-fibrotic responses after ischemic AKI or unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO), a classical fibrosis model. Metalloprotease or EGFR inhibition show significant undesirable side effects in humans. In retrospective studies anti-TNF biologics reduce the incidence and progression of CKD in humans. Whether TNF has a role in AKI-to-CKD transition and how TNF inhibition compares to EGFR inhibition is largely unknown. Methods: Mice were subjected to bilateral renal ischemia-reperfusion injury or unilateral ureteral obstruction. Kidneys were analyzed by histology, immunohistochemistry, qPCR, western blot, mass cytometry, scRNA sequencing, and cytokine profiling. Results: Here we show that TNF or EGFR inhibition reduce AKI-to-CKD transition and fibrosis equally by about 25%, while combination has no additional effect. EGFR inhibition reduced kidney TNF expression by about 50% largely by reducing accumulation of TNF expressing immune cells in the kidney early after AKI, while TNF inhibition did not affect EGFR activation or immune cell accumulation. Using scRNAseq data we show that TNF is predominantly expressed by immune cells in AKI but not in proximal tubule cells (PTC), and PTC-TNF knockout did not affect AKI-to-CKD transition in UUO. Thus, the anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects of the anti-TNF biologic etanercept in AKI-to-CKD transition rely on blocking TNF that is released from immune cells recruited or accumulating in response to PTC-EGFR signals. Conclusion: Short-term anti-TNF biologics during or after AKI could be helpful in the prevention of AKI-to-CKD transition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1139-1150
Number of pages12
JournalNephrology Dialysis Transplantation
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2023


  • TNF
  • acute kidney injury
  • chronic kidney disease
  • epidermal growth factor receptor
  • fibrosis


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