Aims: Recent studies have suggested that small leucine-rich proteoglycans (SLRP) of the extracellular matrix play a major role in modulating the activity of growth factors and in regulating the deposition of collagens. In this study, the expression of the SLRPs biglycan and decorin in the glomeruli of patients with primary glomerular disease (minimal change disease, IgA nephropathy, and membranous nephropathy) and urine immunoreactive levels were examined. Methods: Renal biopsy specimens were obtained from patients with minimal change disease, IgA nephropathy and membranous nephropathy. Immunohistochemical staining was performed on fresh-frozen samples using anti-biglycan and anti-decorin antibodies. Examination of urine proteoglycan excretion from a total of 26 patients and 8 normal volunteers was performed by indirect ELISA. Results: In normal kidney samples, biglycan and decorin expression was found predominantly in the intrarenal arteries and tubulointerstitium, with only minimal expression in the glomeruli. Glomerular expression of these proteoglycans in glomerular disease was unchanged in all of the 4 patients examined with minimal change disease. In the case of IgA nephropathy or membranous nephropathy, some of the patients showed minimally increased immunostaining of either biglycan or decorin, but there were no signs of simultaneous upregulation of both proteoglycans. To further examine the changes in proteoglycan expression, ELISA was performed on urine samples. Urine biglycan levels were below detection levels, but high values of urine decorin immunoreactivity were found in the patients with glomerular disease. A significant negative correlation was found between urine decorin and creatinine clearance. Conclusion: These results suggest that distinct changes in the expression of the SLRPs biglycan and decorin may be seen in patients with primary glomerular disease. Moreover, the negative relationship between urine decorin levels and renal function supports the hypothesis that decorin may be involved in the pathophysiology of renal dysfunction in humans.
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