Background: Mast cells (MCs) are known to participate in various types of chronic disease, but their role in chronic renal rejection is poorly understood. Recently, distinct phenotypes of MCs have been described in humans by the demonstration of one protease, chymase. Hence, we questioned whether chymase in MCs could play a role in the pathogenesis of renal rejection in humans.
Methods: We investigated MC chymase expression and MC phenotypes, using immunohistochemical single- and double-staining techniques, in nephrectomy (N = 13) and biopsy (N = 8) specimens of human rejected kidneys. Tissue chymase levels were determined by enzymatic assay for chymase activity. We also examined the association between MC chymase expression and the degree of interstitial fibrosis in these renal allografts.
Results: Based on chymase positivity, rejected kidneys were divided into two groups, a chymase-negative [Chy(-)] group and a chymase-positive [Chy(+)] group. Quantitative analysis showed that the number of chymase-positive MCs and tissue chymase levels were significantly higher in the Chy(+) group than in the Chy(-) group. Furthermore, the interstitial fibrotic area in the Chy(+) group was significantly larger than that in the Chy(-) group. Immunodouble staining analysis also demonstrated that a new MC phenotype, positive for chymase but negative for tryptase, was present in the human rejected kidney.
Conclusions: These results show that increased expression of chymase in MCs is related to the severity of interstitial fibrosis in human rejected kidneys.