Tamm-Horsfall glycoprotein: biology and clinical relevance

Am J Kidney Dis. 2003 Oct;42(4):658-76. doi: 10.1016/s0272-6386(03)00829-1.


Tamm-Horsfall glycoprotein (THP) is the most abundant urinary protein in mammals. Urinary excretion occurs by proteolytic cleavage of the large ectodomain of the glycosyl phosphatidylinositol-anchored counterpart exposed at the luminal cell surface of the thick ascending limb of Henle's loop. We describe the physical-chemical structure of human THP and its biosynthesis and interaction with other proteins and leukocytes. The clinical relevance of THP reported here includes: (1) involvement in the pathogenesis of cast nephropathy, urolithiasis, and tubulointerstitial nephritis; (2) abnormalities in urinary excretion in renal diseases; and (3) the recent finding that familial juvenile hyperuricemic nephropathy and autosomal dominant medullary cystic kidney disease 2 arise from mutations of the THP gene. We critically examine the literature on the physiological role and mechanism(s) that promote urinary excretion of THP. Some lines of research deal with the in vitro immunoregulatory activity of THP, termed uromodulin when isolated from urine of pregnant women. However, an immunoregulatory function in vivo has not yet been established. In the most recent literature, there is renewed interest in the capacity of urinary THP to compete efficiently with urothelial cell receptors, such as uroplakins, in adhering to type 1 fimbriated Escherichia coli. This property supports the notion that abundant THP excretion in urine is promoted in the host by selective pressure to obtain an efficient defense against urinary tract infections caused by uropathogenic bacteria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Escherichia coli / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mucoproteins / biosynthesis
  • Mucoproteins / chemistry
  • Mucoproteins / physiology*
  • Mutation
  • Nephritis, Interstitial / etiology
  • Protein Binding
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Uric Acid / urine
  • Urinary Calculi / chemistry
  • Urinary Tract Infections / microbiology
  • Uromodulin


  • Mucoproteins
  • UMOD protein, human
  • Uromodulin
  • Uric Acid