In kidney transplantation, fibrosis represents the final and irreversible consequence of the pathogenic mechanisms that lead to graft failure, and in the late stages it irremediably precedes the loss of renal function. The invasiveness of kidney biopsy prevents this condition from being frequently monitored, while clinical data are rather unspecific. The objective of this study was to find noninvasive biomarkers of kidney rejection.
We carried out proteomic analysis of the urinary Extracellular Vesicles (uEVs) from a cohort of kidney transplant recipients (n = 23) classified according to their biopsy-based diagnosis and clinical parameters as interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy (IFTA), acute cellular rejection (ACR), calcineurin inhibitors toxicity (CNIT) and normal kidney function (NKF).
Shotgun mass spectrometry of uEV-proteins identified differential expression of several proteins among these different groups. Up to 23 of these proteins were re-evaluated using targeted proteomics in a new independent cohort of patients (n = 41) classified in the same diagnostic groups. Among other results, we found a differential expression of vitronectin (VTN) in patients displaying chronic interstitial and tubular lesions (ci and ct mean > 2 according to Banff criteria). These results were further confirmed by a pilot study using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).
Urinary vitronectin levels are a potential stand-alone biomarker to monitor fibrotic changes in kidney transplant recipients in a non-invasive fashion.