Proteomic Analysis of Urinary Extracellular Vesicles Reveals a Role for the Complement System in Medullary Sponge Kidney Disease

Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Nov 5;20(21):5517. doi: 10.3390/ijms20215517.


Medullary sponge kidney (MSK) disease is a rare and neglected kidney condition often associated with nephrocalcinosis/nephrolithiasis and cystic anomalies in the precalyceal ducts. Little is known about the pathogenesis of this disease, so we addressed the knowledge gap using a proteomics approach. The protein content of microvesicles/exosomes isolated from urine of 15 MSK and 15 idiopathic calcium nephrolithiasis (ICN) patients was investigated by mass spectrometry, followed by weighted gene coexpression network analysis, support vector machine (SVM) learning, and partial least squares discriminant analysis (PLS-DA) to select the most discriminative proteins. Proteomic data were verified by ELISA. We identified 2998 proteins in total, 1764 (58.9%) of which were present in both vesicle types in both diseases. Among the MSK samples, only 65 (2.2%) and 137 (4.6%) proteins were exclusively found in the microvesicles and exosomes, respectively. Similarly, among the ICN samples, only 75 (2.5%) and 94 (3.1%) proteins were exclusively found in the microvesicles and exosomes, respectively. SVM learning and PLS-DA revealed a core panel of 20 proteins that distinguished extracellular vesicles representing each clinical condition with an accuracy of 100%. Among them, three exosome proteins involved in the lectin complement pathway maximized the discrimination between MSK and ICN: Ficolin 1, Mannan-binding lectin serine protease 2, and Complement component 4-binding protein β. ELISA confirmed the proteomic results. Our data show that the complement pathway is involved in the MSK, revealing a new range of potential therapeutic targets and early diagnostic biomarkers.

Keywords: complement system; idiopathic calcium nephrolithiasis; medullary sponge kidney; proteomics.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Complement System Proteins / analysis*
  • Exosomes / chemistry
  • Exosomes / pathology
  • Extracellular Vesicles / chemistry
  • Extracellular Vesicles / pathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medullary Sponge Kidney / pathology
  • Medullary Sponge Kidney / urine*
  • Nephrolithiasis / pathology
  • Nephrolithiasis / urine
  • Proteins / analysis*
  • Proteomics


  • Proteins
  • Complement System Proteins