Background: Podocyte injury and subsequent excretion in urine play a crucial role in the pathogenesis and progression of diabetic nephropathy (DN). Quantification of messenger RNA (mRNA) expression in urinary sediment by real-time PCR is emerging as a noninvasive method of screening DN-associated biomarkers. We hypothesized that the urinary mRNA profile of podocyte-associated molecules may provide important clinical insight into the different stages of diabetic nephropathy.
Methods: DN patients (N = 51) and healthy controls (N = 13) were enrolled in this study. DN patients were divided into a normoalbuminuria group (UAE<30 mg/g, n = 17), a microalbuminuria group (UAE 30∼300 mg/g, n = 15), and a macroalbuminuria group (UAE>300 mg/g, n = 19), according to their urinary albumin excretion (UAE). Relative mRNA abundance of synaptopodin, podocalyxin, CD2-AP, α-actin4, and podocin were quantified, and correlations between target mRNAs and clinical parameters were examined.
Results: The urinary mRNA levels of all genes studied were significantly higher in the DN group compared with controls (p<0.05), and mRNA levels increased with DN progression. Urinary mRNA levels of all target genes positively correlated with both UAE and BUN. The expression of podocalyxin, CD2-AP, α-actin4, and podocin mRNA correlated with serum creatinine (r = 0.457, p = 0.001; r = 0.329, p = 0.01; r = 0.286, p = 0.021; r = 0.357, p = 0.006, respectively). Furthermore, podocalyxin mRNA was found to negatively correlate with eGFR (r = -0.349, p = 0.01).
Conclusion: The urinary mRNA profiles of synaptopodin, podocalyxin, CD2-AP, α-actin4, and podocin were found to increase with the progression of DN, which suggested that quantification of podocyte-associated molecules will be useful biomarkers of DN.