Decreased glomerular expression of agrin in diabetic nephropathy and podocytes, cultured in high glucose medium

Exp Nephrol. 2001;9(3):214-22. doi: 10.1159/000052614.


Aim: A decrease in glomerular heparan sulfate (HS) proteoglycan (PG), without apparent decrease in HSPG core protein expression, has been reported to occur in diabetic nephropathy (DN). In most studies however, agrin, the major HSPG core protein in the glomerular basement membrane, has not been studied. This prompted us to study the glomerular expression of agrin in parallel to the expression of HS-glycosaminoglycans (GAG) in biopsies of patients with DN. Furthermore, the influence of glucose on agrin production in cultured podocytes and the expression of agrin in fetal kidneys was investigated.

Methods: Cryostat sections of renal biopsies from patients with DN (n = 8) and healthy controls (HC, n = 8), were stained for agrin and HS-GAG. Sections of fetal kidneys were double stained for agrin and CD35 or CD31. Stainings were performed by indirect immunofluorescence (IIF). The production of agrin by cultured human podocytes was tested by ELISA and IIF.

Results: The expression of agrin, detected by AS46, was significantly reduced in biopsies from patients with DN compared to HC (p < 0.01). Similar findings were observed when monoclonal antibody JM72 was used (p < 0.05). In addition, a significant reduction in the glomerular expression of HS-GAG was detected with JM403 in these patients (p < 0.01). Agrin is expressed in cultured podocytes, the expression hereof was reduced when the cells were cultured in the presence of 25 mM D-glucose (p < 0.01). In biopsies of human fetal kidneys, glomerular expression of agrin coincided with the expression of CD31. In early stages of glomerular differentiation there was a strong staining for agrin and CD31 while CD35 was only slightly positive.

Conclusions: Our data argue against a selective dysregulation in HSPG sulfation in DN, but suggest a pivotal role for hyperglycemia in the downregulation of agrin core protein production.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Agrin / biosynthesis*
  • Agrin / chemistry*
  • Agrin / immunology
  • Agrin / metabolism
  • Basement Membrane
  • Biopsy
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Culture Media
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / metabolism
  • Diabetic Nephropathies / pathology
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Epithelium / drug effects*
  • Epithelium / metabolism
  • Fetus
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique, Indirect
  • Glomerular Mesangium / cytology
  • Glomerular Mesangium / drug effects*
  • Glomerular Mesangium / metabolism*
  • Glomerular Mesangium / pathology
  • Glucose / pharmacology*
  • Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans / biosynthesis
  • Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans / chemistry
  • Heparitin Sulfate / immunology
  • Heparitin Sulfate / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Kidney Glomerulus / chemistry
  • Kidney Glomerulus / cytology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / drug effects*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / metabolism
  • Male
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / chemistry
  • Middle Aged
  • Proteoglycans / immunology
  • Proteoglycans / metabolism*


  • Agrin
  • Culture Media
  • Heparan Sulfate Proteoglycans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Proteoglycans
  • Heparitin Sulfate
  • Glucose