Aims: To investigate the expression of the cadherin complex in human crescentic glomerulonephritis to elucidate the role of intercellular adherens junction molecules in crescent formation.
Methods and results: Immunostaining revealed cadherin complexes localized in Bowman's epithelial cells, but not in podocytes, of normal human glomeruli. Eight adult cases with myeloperoxidase anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic autoantibodies (MPO-ANCA)-related (pauci-immune type) crescentic glomerulonephritis were examined on immunofluorescence microscopy with anti-pan cadherin, p120 catenin, and beta-catenin antibodies. The specimens provided six cellular crescents, 12 fibrocellular crescents, and four fibrotic crescents. Immunofluorescence was semiquantitatively estimated by the rate of the field of localization within the whole area of the crescent, according to the four-grade system [(-) - (++)]. All the tested molecules consisting of the cadherin complex were abundantly observed in cytokeratin-positive epithelial components in crescents, each with an equivalent area of localization. The expression of the cadherin complex was closely associated with that of cytokeratin and both diminished as the crescents developed from cellular to fibrotic.
Conclusions: The cadherin-catenin complex is a specific marker of Bowman's epithelial cells in human glomeruli. The cellular crescents in pauci-immune-type crescentic glomerulonephritis possess adherens junction molecules, indicating a principle parietal epithelial cell phenotype.