Background: A translational study in renal transplantation suggested YKL-40, a chitinase 3-like-1 gene product, plays an important role in acute kidney injury (AKI) and repair, but data are lacking about this protein in urine from native human kidneys.
Methods: This is an ancillary study to a single-center, prospective observational cohort of patients with clinically-defined AKI according to AKI Network serum creatinine criteria. We determined the association of YKL -40 ≥ 5 ng/ml, alone or combined with neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL), in urine collected on the first day of AKI with a clinically important composite outcome (progression to higher AKI stage and/or in-hospital death).
Results: YKL-40 was detectable in all 249 patients, but urinary concentrations were considerably lower than in previously measured deceased-donor kidney transplant recipients. Seventy-two patients (29%) progressed or died in-hospital, and YKL-40 ≥ 5 ng/ml had an adjusted odds ratio (95% confidence interval) for the outcome of 3.4 (1.5-7.7). The addition of YKL-40 to a clinical model for predicting the outcome resulted in a continuous net reclassification improvement of 29% (P = 0.04). In patients at high risk for the outcome based on NGAL concentrations in the upper quartile, YKL-40 further partitioned the cohort into moderate-risk and very high-risk groups.
Conclusions: Urine YKL-40 is associated with AKI progression and/or death in hospitalized patients and improves clinically determined risk reclassification. Combining YKL-40 with other AKI biomarkers like NGAL may further delineate progression risk, though additional studies are needed to determine whether YKL-40 has general applicability and to define its association with longer-term outcomes in AKI.