Background: The present in vivo and in vivo experiments were performed to test the hypothesis that in rats with glomerular proteinuria, the bioactive growth factors transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) are ultrafiltered into tubular fluid, can interact with respective receptors in apical tubular cell membranes, increase the expression and basolateral secretion of C-C-chemokines, which interact with cells in the renal interstitium and indirectly cause myofibroblasts to increase the expression of extracellular matrix proteins.
Methods: HGF and TGF-beta were measured by Western blot and bioassay in glomerular ultrafiltrate that was collected by nephron micropuncture from rats with diabetic nephropathy and control rats. Proximal tubular and collecting duct cells were incubated with diluted proximal tubular fluid or recombinant human HGF (rhHGF) or rhTGF-beta and expression of C-C-chemokines was measured by RT-PCR and ELISA. Interactions of tubular cell chemokines with macrophages and indirectly with myofibroblasts were also examined using cell culture models.
Results: In rats with glomerular proteinuria due to diabetic nephropathy mature, bioactive HGF as well as active and latent TGF-beta were detected in early proximal tubular fluid. Specific HGF- and TGF-beta type II receptors were expressed in apical tubular membranes more in diabetic compared to control rats. Incubation of cultured mouse proximal tubular cells (mPTC) or medullary collecting duct cells (mIMCD-3) with diabetic rat proximal tubular fluid increased MCP-1 and RANTES mRNA levels as well as secreted peptide up to threefold. In contrast, high glucose (450 mg/dL), bovine serum albumin (BSA) or rat albumin (each at 100 micrograms/mL) or 10 nmol/L insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I; which was also present in glomerular ultrafiltrate in rats with diabetic nephropathy) did not affect expression of these chemokines. Recombinant human TGF-beta as well as rhHGF each increased MCP-1 and RANTES mRNA as well as peptide levels several-fold. In cultured macrophages MCP-1 raised the secretion of TGF-beta, which in turn increased the expression of collagen type I and III as well as fibronectin in renal interstitial myofibroblasts about 2.5 to 4-fold.
Conclusions: Proteinuria-induced progressive renal interstitial fibrosis may be caused by glomerular ultrafiltration of high molecular weight bioactive growth factors, HGF and TGF-beta, which "activate" tubular cells through apical membranes. These apical signals are translated into basolateral events that are recognized by cells in the interstitium, such as the basolateral secretion of the C-C-chemokines MCP-1 and RANTES, which may (via macrophages) stimulate interstitial myofibroblasts, and thus lead to accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins and progressive interstitial fibrosis.