- Renal tubulointerstitial injury from ureteral obstruction in the neonatal rat is attenuated by IGF-1. Background The administration of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) has been shown to ameliorate the renal injury resulting from ischemic acute renal failure. As there are a number of similarities between acute renal failure and obstructive nephropathy, we examined the effects of IGF-1 on the renal cellular response to unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) in the neonatal rat. Methods Forty-five rats were subjected to UUO or sham operation within the first 48 hours of life and received IGF-1 (2 mg/kg/day) or saline for the following three or seven days, after which kidneys were removed for study by morphometry and immunohistochemistry. To determine the effects of UUO on endogenous expression of IGF-1 and its receptor, six additional rats were subjected to UUO or sham operation, and mRNA was measured by solution hybridization. Results There was no effect of seven days of UUO on the renal expression of endogenous IGF-1 or its receptor. Moreover, seven days of exogenous IGF-1 did not improve the suppression of nephrogenesis, the delay in glomerular maturation, or the reduction in tubular proliferation induced by ipsilateral UUO. However, in the obstructed kidney, IGF-1 reduced tubular expression of vimentin, apoptosis, and tubular atrophy by 38 to 50% (P < 0.05). In addition, IGF-1 also decreased renal interstitial collagen deposition in the obstructed kidney by 44% (P < 0.05). Following three days of UUO, the administration of IGF-1 also reduced tubular apoptosis (P < 0.05), but did not alter tubular proliferation. Conclusions IGF-1 has a profound salutary effect on the tubular and interstitial response to UUO in early development, without affecting glomerular injury or development. These results suggest that IGF-1 may have therapeutic potential in the management of congenital obstructive nephropathy.