Accelerated Podocyte Detachment Early After Kidney Transplantation Is Related to Long-Term Allograft Loss of Function

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Nephrology, dialysis, transplantation


BACKGROUND: Kidney allograft half-life has not improved despite excellent short-term survival. Recent long-term surveillance biopsy studies identify accumulating glomerulosclerosis (GS) to be associated with late allograft loss. While podocyte depletion is well known to drive proteinuria and GS in animal models and human glomerular diseases, its role in renal allograft loss of function is generally not recognized.

METHODS: To address these questions, we collected urine from 125 kidney allograft recipients in the first posttransplant year for urine pellet messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein analysis, with a median follow up of 4.5 years.

RESULTS: Using multivariable linear models adjusted for proteinuria, transplant, recipient and donor factors, we observed that the average urine pellet podocin mRNA normalized to urine creatinine (UPodCR) in the first posttransplant year was significantly associated with an estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR) decline (P = 0.001). The relationship between UPodCR and eGFR decline persisted even among recipients who were nonproteinuric and who had no recurrent or de novo glomerular disease identified on 1-year protocol biopsy. Finally, we identified recipient, donor and recipient:donor body surface area mismatch ratio to be independently associated with UPodCR early after transplantation. A larger donor was protective, while a larger recipient and increased recipient:donor size mismatch ratio were associated with increased UPodCR.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the concept that in kidney allografts, accelerated podocyte loss precedes proteinuria and is associated with inferior long-term allograft outcomes as measured by eGFR decline and may be initiated by recipient:donor size mismatch. Modulating factors driving early podocyte detachment after kidney transplantation may help improve long-term outcomes.

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