Potential Mechanisms Involved in Chronic Kidney Disease of Unclear Etiology

Michael W. Holliday, Qingtian Li, Edlyn G. Bustamante, Jingbo Niu, Luping Huang, Ilse M. Espina, Jose R. Dominguez, Luan Truong, Kristy O. Murray, Lei Fan, Samaya J. Anumudu, Maulin Shah, Rebecca S.B. Fischer, Chandan Vangala, Sreedhar Mandayam, Jose Perez, Jenny S. Pan, Sehrish Ali, Ahmed A. Awan, David Sheikh-Hamad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Background and objectives The etiology of chronic kidney disease of unclear etiology, also known as Mesoamerican nephropathy, remains unclear. We investigated potential etiologies for Mesoamerican nephropathy in an immigrant dialysis population. Design, setting, participants, & measurements Migrants with Mesoamerican nephropathy kidney failure (n552) were identified by exclusion of known causes of kidney disease and compared using a cross-sectional survey with demographically similar patients with kidney failure from other causes (n563) and age/sex/place of origin–matched healthy participants (n516). Survey results were extended to the bench; C57BL/6 mice (n573) received 10–15 weekly intraperitoneal injections of paraquat (a reactive oxygen species–generating herbicide) or vehicle. Kidney function, histology, and expression of organic cation transporter-2 (proximal tubule entry for paraquat) and multidrug and toxin extrusion 1 (extrusion pathway) were examined. Kidney biopsies from Nicaraguan patients with acute Mesoamerican nephropathy were stained for the above transporters and compared with patients with tubulointerstitial nephritis and without Mesoamerican nephropathy. Results Patients with Mesoamerican nephropathy and kidney failure were young agricultural workers, almost exclusively men; the majority were from Mexico and El Salvador; and they had prior exposures to agrochemicals, including paraquat (27%). After adjustment for age/sex, exposure to any agrochemical or paraquat was associated with Mesoamerican nephropathy kidney failure (odds ratio, 4.86; 95% confidence interval, 1.82 to 12.96; P50.002 and odds ratio, 12.25; 95% confidence interval, 1.51 to 99.36; P50.02, respectively). Adjusted for age/sex and other covariates, 1 year of agrochemical exposure was associated with Mesoamerican nephropathy kidney failure (odds ratio, 1.23; 95% confidence interval, 1.04 to 1.44; P50.02). Compared with 16 matched healthy controls, Mesoamerican nephropathy kidney failure was significantly associated with exposure to paraquat and agrochemicals. Paraquat-treated male mice developed kidney failure and tubulointerstitial nephritis consistent with Mesoamerican nephropathy. Organic cation transporter-2 expression was higher in male kidneys versus female kidneys. Paraquat treatment increased organic cation transporter-2 expression and decreased multidrug and toxin extrusion 1 expression in male kidneys; similar results were observed in the kidneys of Nicaraguan patients with Mesoamerican nephropathy. Conclusions Exposure to agrochemicals is associated with Mesoamerican nephropathy, and chronic exposure of mice to paraquat, a prototypical oxidant, induced kidney failure similar to Mesoamerican nephropathy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1293-1304
Number of pages12
JournalClinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Nephrology
  • Transplantation


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