Background: Collagen type VIII is a non-fibrillar short-chain collagen that may modulate migration, proliferation and adherence of various cells. Only very sparse information exists on collagen type VIII expression in human diabetic nephropathy.
Material and methods: We retrospectively studied mRNA expression for the two collagen type VIII chains (COL8A1 and COL8A2) in 20 biopsies with histologically confirmed diabetic nephropathy by real-time PCR, and compared glomerular and tubular expression with normal kidney [pre-transplant biopsies (n = 10)]. Expression of collagen type VIII was also studied in biopsies from patients with benign nephrosclerosis (BNS; n = 16) and focal-segmental glomerulosclerosis (FSGS; n = 9).
Results: A strong specific induction of COL8A1 mRNA was found in diabetic nephropathy in both glomerular and tubular compartments. There was also a robust induction of COL8A2 in diabetic nephropathy, but overall expression was lower than that of COL8A1 transcripts. No significant increase in COL8A1 and COL8A2 mRNAs expression was found in biopsies from patients with BNS and FSGS compared with normal kidneys. The cross-reactivity of the used anti-alpha1(VIII) antibody with human tissue was confirmed by Western blots. Immunohistological analysis revealed only little staining for collagen type VIII in the normal kidney, localized to vessels. There was an up-regulation of collagen type VIII protein expression as shown by immunohistochemistry in the diabetic nephropathy biopsies mainly localized to mesangial cells, tubules and the interstitium. Proteinuria and serum creatinine did not correlate with glomerular or tubular COL8A1 and COL8A2 mRNA expression in diabetic patients.
Conclusion: Our study systemically investigates collagen type VIII expression in human biopsies. Induction of collagen type VIII was specific for diabetic nephropathy and did not occur in the other renal diseases studied. More specific factors of the diabetic environment are likely involved in the stimulated expression because there was no correlation of collagen type VIII mRNA expression with proteinuria. Since collagen type VIII may influence proliferation and migration of cells, it is possible that an increase in renal expression of collagen type VIII initiates other pathophysiological processes (e.g. proliferation of renal fibroblasts) involved in diabetic nephropathy.