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Kidney Int. 2000 Oct;58(4):1557-68.

Small proteoglycans of normal adult human kidney: distinct expression patterns of decorin, biglycan, fibromodulin, and lumican.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Muenster, Muenster, Germany.



Among the members of the small leucine-rich proteoglycan family, decorin, biglycan, and fibromodulin have been proposed to be potent modulators of transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) activity, thereby playing an important role in the pathogenesis of fibrotic kidney diseases. Furthermore, decorin expression influences the expression of p21WAF1/CIP1, which has been related to kidney hypertrophy and hyperplasia. However, none of the members of this proteoglycan family have been investigated in normal adult human kidney cortex, thus making it impossible to correlate disease-mediated alterations of their expression with the normal situation in vivo.


The chondroitin/dermatan sulfate proteoglycans, decorin and biglycan, and the keratan sulfate proteoglycans, fibromodulin and lumican, were investigated in normal human adult renal cortex by immunohistochemistry on the light and electron microscopic level and by in situ hybridization. Northern blot and reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) methods were used to get an estimate of their expression in isolated glomeruli. Decorin excretion with the urine was measured by Western blotting.


Two bands of decorin and a single band of biglycan mRNA were identified in Northern blots of isolated glomeruli. Amplification by RT-PCR was required to detect the signals for fibromodulin and lumican. All four proteoglycans were preferentially expressed in the renal interstitium with accumulations around tubules. Weak expression was found in the mesangial matrix. Biglycan was expressed by glomerular endothelial cells and, together with fibromodulin, was synthesized and deposited in distal tubular cells and collecting ducts. Immunogold labeling indicated the presence of the proteoglycans in the glomerular basement membrane, which was interpreted as a result of glomerular filtration. Indirect evidence suggested tubular reuptake of decorin after glomerular filtration.


The data indicate that the different cells of the adult human kidney are characterized by a distinct expression pattern of the four small proteoglycans. It is suggested that these proteoglycans may have distinct pathophysiological roles depending upon whether they are expressed by mesangial cells, endothelial cells, epithelial cells, or cells of the tubulointerstitium.

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