Dendritic cells (DCs) play critical roles in immune-mediated kidney diseases. Little is known, however, about DC subsets in human chronic kidney disease, with previous studies restricted to a limited set of pathologies and to using immunohistochemical methods. In this study, we developed novel protocols for extracting renal DC subsets from diseased human kidneys and identified, enumerated, and phenotyped them by multicolor flow cytometry. We detected significantly greater numbers of total DCs as well as CD141(hi) and CD1c(+) myeloid DC (mDCs) subsets in diseased biopsies with interstitial fibrosis than diseased biopsies without fibrosis or healthy kidney tissue. In contrast, plasmacytoid DC numbers were significantly higher in the fibrotic group compared with healthy tissue only. Numbers of all DC subsets correlated with loss of kidney function, recorded as estimated glomerular filtration rate. CD141(hi) DCs expressed C-type lectin domain family 9 member A (CLEC9A), whereas the majority of CD1c(+) DCs lacked the expression of CD1a and DC-specific ICAM-3-grabbing nonintegrin (DC-SIGN), suggesting these mDC subsets may be circulating CD141(hi) and CD1c(+) blood DCs infiltrating kidney tissue. Our analysis revealed CLEC9A(+) and CD1c(+) cells were restricted to the tubulointerstitium. Notably, DC expression of the costimulatory and maturation molecule CD86 was significantly increased in both diseased cohorts compared with healthy tissue. Transforming growth factor-β levels in dissociated tissue supernatants were significantly elevated in diseased biopsies with fibrosis compared with nonfibrotic biopsies, with mDCs identified as a major source of this profibrotic cytokine. Collectively, our data indicate that activated mDC subsets, likely recruited into the tubulointerstitium, are positioned to play a role in the development of fibrosis and, thus, progression to chronic kidney disease.
Keywords: chronic kidney disease; human dendritic cells; interstitial fibrosis; transforming growth factor-β; tubulointerstitium.