Plasma Kidney Injury Molecule 1 in CKD: Findings From the Boston Kidney Biopsy Cohort and CRIC Studies

Am J Kidney Dis. 2022 Feb;79(2):231-243.e1. doi: 10.1053/j.ajkd.2021.05.013. Epub 2021 Jun 25.


Rationale & objective: Plasma kidney injury molecule 1 (KIM-1) is a sensitive marker of proximal tubule injury, but its association with risks of adverse clinical outcomes across a spectrum of kidney diseases is unknown.

Study design: Prospective, observational cohort study.

Setting & participants: 524 individuals enrolled into the Boston Kidney Biopsy Cohort (BKBC) Study undergoing clinically indicated native kidney biopsy with biopsy specimens adjudicated for semiquantitative scores of histopathology by 2 kidney pathologists and 3,800 individuals with common forms of chronic kidney disease (CKD) enrolled into the Chronic Renal Insufficiency Cohort (CRIC) Study.

Exposure: Histopathologic lesions and clinicopathologic diagnosis in cross-sectional analyses, baseline plasma KIM-1 levels in prospective analyses.

Outcomes: Baseline plasma KIM-1 levels in cross-sectional analyses, kidney failure (defined as initiation of kidney replacement therapy) and death in prospective analyses.

Analytical approach: Multivariable-adjusted linear regression models tested associations of plasma KIM-1 levels with histopathologic lesions and clinicopathologic diagnoses. Cox proportional hazards models tested associations of plasma KIM-1 levels with future kidney failure and death.

Results: In the BKBC Study, higher plasma KIM-1 levels were associated with more severe acute tubular injury, tubulointerstitial inflammation, and more severe mesangial expansion after multivariable adjustment. Participants with diabetic nephropathy, glomerulopathies, and tubulointerstitial disease had significantly higher plasma KIM-1 levels after multivariable adjustment. In the BKBC Study, CKD in 124 participants progressed to kidney failure and 85 participants died during a median follow-up time of 5 years. In the CRIC Study, CKD in 1,153 participants progressed to kidney failure and 1,356 participants died during a median follow-up time of 11.5 years. In both cohorts, each doubling of plasma KIM-1 level was associated with an increased risk of kidney failure after multivariable adjustment (hazard ratios of 1.19 [95% CI, 1.03-1.38] and 1.10 [95% CI, 1.06-1.15] for BKBC and CRIC, respectively). There was no statistically significant association of plasma KIM-1 levels with death in either cohort.

Limitations: Generalizability and unmeasured confounding.

Conclusions: Plasma KIM-1 is associated with underlying tubulointerstitial and mesangial lesions and progression to kidney failure in 2 cohort studies of individuals with kidney diseases.

Publication types

  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers
  • Biopsy
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Kidney
  • Prospective Studies
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / diagnosis
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic* / epidemiology


  • Biomarkers

Grants and funding