Defining the molecular correlate of arteriolar hyalinosis in kidney disease progression by integration of single cell transcriptomic analysis and pathology scoring

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Aug 23:2023.06.14.23291150. doi: 10.1101/2023.06.14.23291150.


Arteriolar hyalinosis in kidneys is an independent predictor of cardiovascular disease, the main cause of mortality in chronic kidney disease (CKD). The underlying molecular mechanisms of protein accumulation in the subendothelial space are not well understood. Using single cell transcriptomic data and whole slide images from kidney biopsies of patients with CKD and acute kidney injury in the Kidney Precision Medicine Project, the molecular signals associated with arteriolar hyalinosis were evaluated. Co-expression network analysis of the endothelial genes yielded three gene set modules as significantly associated with arteriolar hyalinosis. Pathway analysis of these modules showed enrichment of transforming growth factor beta / bone morphogenetic protein (TGFβ / BMP) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling pathways in the endothelial cell signatures. Ligand-receptor analysis identified multiple integrins and cell adhesion receptors as over-expressed in arteriolar hyalinosis, suggesting a potential role of integrin-mediated TGFβ signaling. Further analysis of arteriolar hyalinosis associated endothelial module genes identified focal segmental glomerular sclerosis as an enriched term. On validation in gene expression profiles from the Nephrotic Syndrome Study Network cohort, one of the three modules was significantly associated with the composite endpoint (> 40% reduction in estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) or kidney failure) independent of age, sex, race, and baseline eGFR, suggesting poor prognosis with elevated expression of genes in this module. Thus, integration of structural and single cell molecular features yielded biologically relevant gene sets, signaling pathways and ligand-receptor interactions, underlying arteriolar hyalinosis and putative targets for therapeutic intervention.

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