Kidney fibrosis constitutes the shared final pathway of nearly all chronic nephropathies, but biomarkers for the non-invasive assessment of kidney fibrosis are currently not available. To address this, we characterize five candidate biomarkers of kidney fibrosis: Cadherin-11 (CDH11), Sparc-related modular calcium binding protein-2 (SMOC2), Pigment epithelium-derived factor (PEDF), Matrix-gla protein, and Thrombospondin-2. Gene expression profiles in single-cell and single-nucleus RNA-sequencing (sc/snRNA-seq) datasets from rodent models of fibrosis and human chronic kidney disease (CKD) were explored, and Luminex-based assays for each biomarker were developed. Plasma and urine biomarker levels were measured using independent prospective cohorts of CKD: the Boston Kidney Biopsy Cohort, a cohort of individuals with biopsy-confirmed semiquantitative assessment of kidney fibrosis, and the Seattle Kidney Study, a cohort of patients with common forms of CKD. Ordinal logistic regression and Cox proportional hazards regression models were used to test associations of biomarkers with interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy and progression to end-stage kidney disease and death, respectively. Sc/snRNA-seq data confirmed cell-specific expression of biomarker genes in fibroblasts. After multivariable adjustment, higher levels of plasma CDH11, SMOC2, and PEDF and urinary CDH11 and PEDF were significantly associated with increasing severity of interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy in the Boston Kidney Biopsy Cohort. In both cohorts, higher levels of plasma and urinary SMOC2 and urinary CDH11 were independently associated with progression to end-stage kidney disease. Higher levels of urinary PEDF associated with end-stage kidney disease in the Seattle Kidney Study, with a similar signal in the Boston Kidney Biopsy Cohort, although the latter narrowly missed statistical significance. Thus, we identified CDH11, SMOC2, and PEDF as promising non-invasive biomarkers of kidney fibrosis.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.