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1.  Nephrolithiasis, kidney failure and bone disorders in Dent disease patients with and without CLCN5 mutations 
SpringerPlus  2015;4:492.
Dent disease (DD) is a rare X-linked recessive renal tubulopathy characterised by low-molecular-weight proteinuria (LMWP), hypercalciuria, nephrocalcinosis and/or nephrolithiasis. DD is caused by mutations in both the CLCN5 and OCRL genes. CLCN5 encodes the electrogenic chloride/proton exchanger ClC-5 which is involved in the tubular reabsorption of albumin and LMW proteins, OCRL encodes the inositol polyphosphate 5-phosphatase, and was initially associated with Lowe syndrome. In approximately 25 % of patients, no CLCN5 and OCRL mutations were detected. The aim of our study was to evaluate whether calcium phosphate metabolism disorders and their clinical complications are differently distributed among DD patients with and without CLCN5 mutations. Sixty-four male subjects were studied and classified into three groups: Group I (with CLCN5 mutations), Group II (without CLCN5 mutations) and Group III (family members with the same CLCN5 mutation). LMWP, hypercalciuria and phosphaturic tubulopathy and the consequent clinical complications nephrocalcinosis, nephrolithiasis, bone disorders, and chronic kidney disease (CKD) were considered present or absent in each patient. We found that the distribution of nephrolithiasis, bone disorders and CKD differs among patients with and without CLCN5 mutations. Only in patients harbouring CLCN5 mutations was age-independent nephrolithiasis associated with hypercalciuria, suggesting that nephrolithiasis is linked to altered proximal tubular function caused by a loss of ClC-5 function, in agreement with ClC-5 KO animal models. Similarly, only in patients harbouring CLCN5 mutations was age-independent kidney failure associated with nephrocalcinosis, suggesting that kidney failure is the consequence of a ClC-5 dysfunction, as in ClC-5 KO animal models. Bone disorders are a relevant feature of DD phenotype, as patients were mainly young males and this complication occurred independently of age. The triad of symptoms, LMWP, hypercalciuria, and nephrocalcinosis, was present in almost all patients with CLCN5 mutations but not in those without CLCN5 mutations. This lack of homogeneity of clinical manifestations suggests that the difference in phenotypes between the two groups might reflect different pathophysiological mechanisms, probably depending on the diverse genes involved. Overall, our results might suggest that in patients without CLCN5 mutations several genes instead of the prospected third DD underpin patients’ phenotypes.
PMCID: PMC4571032  PMID: 26389017
Dent disease; CLCN5 gene; OCRL gene; Calcium phosphate metabolism; Nephrolithiasis; Chronic kidney disease
2.  Barnidipine or Lercanidipine on Echocardiographic Parameters in Hypertensive, Type 2 Diabetics with Left Ventricular Hypertrophy: A Randomized Clinical Trial 
Scientific Reports  2015;5:12603.
The aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of lercanidipine or barnidipine on echocardiographic parameters, in hypertensive, type 2 diabetics with left ventricular hypertrophy. One hundred and forty-four patients were randomized to lercanidipine, 20 mg/day, or barnidipine, 20 mg/day, in addition to losartan, 100 mg/day, for 6 months. We evaluated: blood pressure, fasting plasma glucose (FPG), glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c), lipid profile, creatinine, estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR), sodium, potassium, and acid uric. Echocardiography was performed at baseline and after 6 months. Both lercanidipine and barnidipine decreased blood pressure. Left ventricular mass index was reduced to a greater extent with barnidipine + losartan. Interventricular septal thickness in diastole was reduced by barnidipine + losartan. Posterior wall thickness in diastole was decreased by both treatments, even if barnidipine + losartan were more effective. Ratio of peak early diastolic filling velocity to peak filling velocity at atrial contraction was increased by barnidipine + losartan, but not by lercanidipine + losartan. Finally, isovolumetric relaxation and time and left atrial volume index were reduced by barnidipine + losartan, while lercanidipine + losartan did not affect them. In conclusion, barnidipine + losartan provided a greater improvement of echocardiographic parameters compared to lercanidipine + losartan.
PMCID: PMC4525144  PMID: 26243165
3.  A study about the relevance of adding acetylsalicylic acid in primary prevention in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus: effects on some new emerging biomarkers of cardiovascular risk 
To evaluate the relevance of adding acetylsalicylic acid (ASA) in primary prevention in subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus.
213 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and hypertension were randomized to amlodipine 5 mg, or amlodipine 5 mg + ASA 100 mg for 3 months (Phase A); then, if adequate blood pressure control was reached patients terminated the study; otherwise, amlodipine was up-titrated to 10 mg/day for further 3 months and compared to amlodipine 10 mg + ASA 100 mg (Phase B). We assessed at baseline, at the end of Phase A, and at the end of Phase B the levels of some new emerging biomarkers of cardiovascular risk including: high sensitivity C-reactive protein (Hs-CRP), adiponectin (ADN), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-1β (IL-1β), myeloperoxidase (MPO), soluble CD40 ligand (sCDL40).
Compared to baseline, at the end of Phase A, patients treated with amlodipine 5 mg + ASA 100 mg showed a statistically significant reduction of Hs-CRP (−15.0%), TNF-α (−21.7%), MPO (−9.7%), and sCDL40 (−15.7%), and a statistically significant increase of ADN (+15.0%). These values were significantly better than the ones obtained with amlodipine alone. Similarly, at the end of Phase B, amlodipine 10 mg + ASA significantly lowered Hs-CRP (−18.8%), TNF-α (−15.0%), MPO (−9.2%), and sCDL40 (−20.0%) and increased ADN (+11.8%), with a better effect compared to amlodipine alone.
All biomarkers considered were significantly improved by ASA addition. These data suggest that the use of ASA in primary prevention could be useful in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus and hypertension.
Trial registration: NCT02064218
PMCID: PMC4518654  PMID: 26223257
Acetylsalicylic acid; Amlodipine; Cardiovascular risk; Hypertension; New emerging biomarkers; Primary prevention
4.  Spontaneous calcification process in primary renal cells from a medullary sponge kidney patient harbouring a GDNF mutation 
Medullary nephrocalcinosis is a hallmark of medullary sponge kidney (MSK). We had the opportunity to study a spontaneous calcification process in vitro by utilizing the renal cells of a patient with MSK who was heterozygous for the c.-27 + 18G>A variant in the GDNF gene encoding glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor. The cells were obtained by collagenase digestion of papillary tissues from the MSK patient and from two patients who had no MSK or nephrocalcinosis. These cells were typed by immunocytochemistry, and the presence of mineral deposits was studied using von Kossa staining, scanning electron microscopy analysis and an ALP assay. Osteoblastic lineage markers were studied using immunocytochemistry and RT-PCR. Staminality markers were also analysed using flow cytometry, magnetic cell separation technology, immunocytochemistry and RT-PCR. Starting from p2, MSK and control cells formed nodules with a behaviour similar to that of calcifying pericytes; however, Ca2PO4 was only found in the MSK cultures. The MSK cells had morphologies and immunophenotypes resembling those of pericytes or stromal stem cells and were positive for vimentin, ZO1, αSMA and CD146. In addition, the MSK cells expressed osteocalcin and osteonectin, indicating an osteoblast-like phenotype. In contrast to the control cells, GDNF was down-regulated in the MSK cells. Stable GDNF knockdown was established in the HK2 cell line and was found to promote Ca2PO4 deposition when the cells were incubated with calcifying medium by regulating the osteonectin/osteopontin ratio in favour of osteonectin. Our data indicate that the human papilla may be a perivascular niche in which pericyte/stromal-like cells can undergo osteogenic differentiation under particular conditions and suggest that GDNF down-regulation may have influenced the observed phenomenon.
PMCID: PMC4395202  PMID: 25692823
nephrocalcinosis; medullary sponge kidney; GDNF; mesenchymal stromal stem cells
5.  Soluble RAGE Plasma Levels in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease and Peripheral Artery Disease 
The Scientific World Journal  2013;2013:584504.
The objective of the present study was define in a relatively large patient population with coronary artery disease (CAD) whether the concomitant presence of peripheral artery disease (PAD), which is known to convey additional cardiovascular risk, was associated with different circulating levels of sRAGE with respect to CAD alone and control subjects. Clinical and laboratory parameters including the ankle brachial index (ABI) and sRAGE (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay kit) were investigated in 544 patients with angiographically documented CAD and 328 control subjects. 213/554 CAD patients (39%) showed an ABI <0.9 associated with typical symptoms (group CAD + PAD), whereas 331 patients were free from PAD. The concentration of plasma sRAGE was significantly lower (P < 0.0001) in CAD population, with and without PAD, than in control subjects. Among CAD patients, those with PAD showed lower levels of sRAGE. The distribution of the three groups (CAD, CAD + PAD, and controls) according to sRAGE tertiles showed that lower levels were more frequent in patients with CAD and CAD + PAD, whereas higher levels were more frequently found in controls. CAD patients presenting with PAD have lower sRAGE levels than CAD patients without peripheral atherosclerosis showing that stable atherosclerotic lesions in different vascular districts are inversely related to soluble decoy receptor sRAGE.
PMCID: PMC3817642  PMID: 24228009
6.  Plasma Levels of Soluble Receptor for Advanced Glycation End Products and Coronary Atherosclerosis: Possible Correlation with Clinical Presentation 
Disease markers  2013;35(3):135-140.
Receptor for Advanced Glycation End-products (RAGE) is a multi-ligand receptor ubiquitous present on epithelial, neuronal, vascular and inflammatory cells, usually expressed at low levels in homeostasis and to increased degrees at sites of stress or injury. The aim of the present study was to evaluate sRAGE plasma levels in patients with Acute Coronary Syndrome (ACS) and to assess its diagnostic efficacy in identification of patients with acute events. Plasma levels of sRAGE were determined in 860 patients with Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): 530 patients presented stable angina and 330 were observed during acute ischemic event (147 with unstable angina and 183 with myocardial infarction). sRAGE plasma levels were significantly lower in patients with ACS than in patients with stable angina: [median 584 pg/mL (IQR: 266–851 pg/mL) in MI patients, median 769 pg/mL (IQR: 394–987 pg/mL) in patients with unstable angina, median 834 pg/mL (IQR 630–1005 pg/mL) in patients with stable angina; P < 0.001]. sRAGE levels did not differ among ACS patients stratified by the extent of coronary artery disease. In conclusion, this study confirm the role of sRAGE in activation and progression of inflammatory process and suggests the possibility that sRAGE can be considered an indicator of destabilization of vulnerable plaque.
PMCID: PMC3774980  PMID: 24167358
7.  Involvement of the Tubular ClC-Type Exchanger ClC-5 in Glomeruli of Human Proteinuric Nephropathies 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(9):e45605.
Glomerular protein handling mechanisms have received much attention in studies of nephrotic syndrome. Histopathological findings in renal biopsies from severely proteinuric patients support the likelihood of protein endocytosis by podocytes. ClC-5 is involved in the endocytosis of albumin in the proximal tubule.
To investigate whether ClC-5 is expressed in the glomerular compartment and whether it has a role in proteinuric nephropathies. ClC-5 expression was studied using Real-time PCR in manually- and laser-microdissected biopsies from patients with type 2 diabetes (n 37) and IgA nephropathy (n 10); in biopsies of membranous glomerulopathy (MG) (n 14) immunohistochemistry for ClC-5 (with morphometric analysis) and for WT1 was done. Controls: cortical tissue (n 23) obtained from unaffected parts of tumor-related nephrectomy specimens.
ClC-5 was expressed at glomerular level in all biopsies. Glomerular ClC-5 levels were significantly higher in diabetic nephropaty and MG at both mRNA and protein level (p<0.002; p<0.01). ClC-5 and WT1 double-staining analysis in MG showed that ClC-5 was localized in the podocytes. ClC-5 ultrastructural immunolocalization was demonstrated in podocytes foot processes. Our study is the first to demonstrate that ClC-5 is expressed in human podocytes. The ClC-5 overexpression found in biopsies of proteinuric patients suggests that proteinuria may play a part in its expression and that podocytes are likely to have a key role in albumin handling in proteinuric states.
PMCID: PMC3454393  PMID: 23029130
8.  Sepsis and AKI in ICU Patients: The Role of Plasma Biomarkers  
Given the higher mortality rate of ICU patients with sepsis and AKI, we decided to investigate the possible correlation between serum biomarkers of organ damage, and endotoxin activity in ICU septic patients. Ninety-eight consecutive adult patients were enrolled in this study. Patients were divided in two groups depending on the presence of sepsis. Fifty-six patients had sepsis, while forty-two patients were nonseptic. Among septic patients, twenty-four subjects developed AKI, while thirty-two did not. AKI occurred in fourteen patients without sepsis as well. The levels of NGAL, BNP, and AOPP were significantly higher among septic patients compared with nonseptic subjects (P < 0.001). Among septic patients, subjects who developed AKI showed significant higher levels of NGAL and AOPP (P = 0.0425) and BNP (P = 0.0327). Among patients who developed AKI, a significant difference was found only in terms of AOPP levels between septic and nonseptic patients. The correlation between endotoxin activity and BNP in septic patients and the increase in the levels of NGAL, BNP, and AOPP in case of sepsis and AKI, in particular if they are associated, indicate a multiorgan involvement in these two conditions.
PMCID: PMC3286882  PMID: 22400110
9.  Microalbuminuria and sRAGE in High-Risk Hypertensive Patients Treated with Nifedipine/Telmisartan Combination Treatment: A Substudy of TALENT 
Mediators of Inflammation  2012;2012:874149.
Some antihypertensive drugs have also renoprotective and anti-inflammatory properties that go beyond their effect on blood pressure. It has been suggested that microalbuminuria and glomerular filtration rate (GFR) are associated with circulating levels of the soluble form of the receptor, sRAGE (soluble receptor for advanced glycation ends-products). In the present analysis, we used data from the TALENT study to evaluate soluble receptor for advanced glycation end-products (sRAGE) plasma levels in patients with hypertension and high-cardiovascular risk-treated nifedipine and telmisartan in combination. Treatment with nifedipine-telmisartan significantly decreased mean systolic and diastolic ambulatory blood pressure and resulted in a significant increase in sRAGE plasma concentrations after 24 weeks of therapy. We concluded that in hypertensive patients with early-stage renal disease, sRAGE concentrations are not influenced by either microalbuminuria or GFR. Long-term treatment with a combination of nifedipine-telmisartan may have a beneficial effect increasing sRAGE plasma levels, thus exerting an atheroprotective and anti-inflammatory activity.
PMCID: PMC3306936  PMID: 22474401
10.  B-Type Natriuretic Peptide in the Critically Ill with Acute Kidney Injury 
Introduction. Acute kidney injury (AKI) is common in the intensive care unit (ICU) and associated with poor outcome. Plasma B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) is a biomarker related to myocardial overload, and is elevated in some ICU patients. There is a high prevalence of both cardiac and renal dysfunction in ICU patients. Aims. To investigate whether plasma BNP levels in the first 48 hours were associated with AKI in ICU patients. Methods. We studied a cohort of 34 consecutive ICU patients. Primary outcome was presence of AKI on presentation, or during ICU stay. Results. For patients with AKI on presentation, BNP was statistically higher at 24 and 48 hours than No-AKI patients (865 versus 148 pg/mL; 1380 versus 131 pg/mL). For patients developing AKI during 48 hours, BNP was statistically higher at 0, 24 and 48 hours than No-AKI patients (510 versus 197 pg/mL; 552 versus 124 pg/mL; 949 versus 104 pg/mL). Conclusion. Critically ill patients with AKI on presentation or during ICU stay have higher levels of the cardiac biomarker BNP relative to No-AKI patients. Elevated levels of plasma BNP may help identify patients with elevated risk of AKI in the ICU setting. The mechanism for this cardiorenal connection requires further investigation.
PMCID: PMC3132842  PMID: 21761002
11.  Pathogenesis of nephrolithiasis: recent insight from cell biology and renal pathology 
Randall’s plaques are very common in idiopathic calcium-oxalate nephrolithiasis. These papillary plaques have an apatite mineral structure. While these calcium deposits are generally assumed to be secondary to a purely physico-chemical phenomenon, we advance the hypothesis that they form due to a truly ectopic biomineralization in the renal tissue, and that Henle’s loop epithelial cells, or pericyte-like interstitial cells, or papillary stem cells differentiating along a bone lineage might be involved.
PMCID: PMC2781203  PMID: 22460990
: CaOx renal stones, ectopic calcification, epithelial-mesenchymal transformation, papilla, Randall’s plaque
12.  Genes involved in TGFβ1-driven epithelial-mesenchymal transition of renal epithelial cells are topologically related in the human interactome map 
BMC Genomics  2007;8:383.
Understanding how mesenchymal cells arise from epithelial cells could have a strong impact in unveiling mechanisms of epithelial cell plasticity underlying kidney regeneration and repair.
In primary human tubular epithelial cells (HUTEC) under different TGFβ1 concentrations we had observed epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) but not epithelial-myofibroblast transdifferentiation. We hypothesized that the process triggered by TGFβ1 could be a dedifferentiation event. The purpose of this study is to comprehensively delineate genetic programs associated with TGFβ1-driven EMT in our in vitro model using gene expression profile on large-scale oligonucleotide microarrays.
In HUTEC under TGFβ1 stimulus, 977 genes were found differentially expressed. Thirty genes were identified whose expression depended directly on TGFβ1 concentration. By mapping the differentially expressed genes in the Human Interactome Map using Cytoscape software, we identified a single scale-free network consisting of 2630 interacting proteins and containing 449 differentially expressed proteins. We identified 27 hub proteins in the interactome with more than 29 edges incident on them and encoded by differentially expressed genes. The Gene Ontology analysis showed an excess of up-regulated proteins involved in biological processes, such as "morphogenesis", "cell fate determination" and "regulation of development", and the most up-regulated genes belonged to these categories. In addition, 267 genes were mapped to the KEGG pathways and 14 pathways with more than nine differentially expressed genes were identified. In our model, Smad signaling was not the TGFβ1 action effector; instead, the engagement of RAS/MAPK signaling pathway seems mainly to regulate genes involved in the cell cycle and proliferation/apoptosis.
Our present findings support the hypothesis that context-dependent EMT generated in our model by TGFβ1 might be the outcome of a dedifferentiation. In fact: 1) the principal biological categories involved in the process concern morphogenesis and development; 2) the most up-regulated genes belong to these categories; and, finally, 3) some intracellular pathways are involved, whose engagement during kidney development and nephrogenesis is well known. These long-term effects of TGFβ1 in HUTEC involve genes that are highly interconnected, thereby generating a scale-free network that we named the "TGFβ1 interactome", whose hubs represent proteins that may have a crucial role for HUTEC in response to TGFβ1.
PMCID: PMC2174485  PMID: 17953753
13.  Smad3 knock-out mice as a useful model to study intestinal fibrogenesis 
AIM: To evaluate the possible differences in morphology and immunohistochemical expression of CD3, transforming growth factor β1(TGF-β1), Smad7, α-smooth muscle actin (α-Sma), and collagen types I-VII of small and large intestine in Smad3 null and wild-type mice.
METHODS: Ten null and ten wild-type adult mice were sacrificed at 4 mo of age and the organs (esophagus, small and large bowel, ureters) were collected for histology(hematoxylin and eosin, Masson thrichrome, silver staining), morphometry and immunohistochemistry analysis. TGF-β1 levels of intestinal tissue homogenates were assessed by ELISA.
RESULTS: No macroscopic intestinal lesions were detected both in null and wild-type mice. Histological and morphometric evaluation revealed a significant reduction in muscle layer thickness of small and large intestine in null mice as compared to wild-type mice. Immunohistochemistry evaluation showed a significant increase of CD3+T cell, TGF-β1 and Smad7 staining in the small and large intestine mucosa of Smad3 null mice as compared to wild-type mice. α-Sma and collagen I-VII staining of small and large intestine did not differ between the two groups of mice. TGF-β1 levels of colonic tissue homogenates were significantly higher in null mice than in wild-type mice. In preliminary experiments a significant reduction of TNBS-induced intestinal fibrosis was observed in null mice as compared to wild-type mice.
CONCLUSION: Smad3 null mice are a useful model to investigate the in vivo role of the TGF-β/Smad signalling pathway in intestinal inflammation and fibrosis.
PMCID: PMC4124431  PMID: 16534873
Transforming growth factor; TGF-β; Fibrosis; Smad proteins
14.  Relationship between apolipoprotein(a) size polymorphism and coronary heart disease in overweight subjects 
Overweight is associated with an increased cardiovascular risk which is only partially explained by conventional risk factors. The objective of this study was to evaluate lipoprotein(a) [Lp(a)] plasma levels and apolipoprotein(a) [apo(a)] phenotypes in relation to coronary heart disease (CHD) in overweight subjects.
A total of 275 overweight (BMI ≥ 27 kg/m2) subjects, of which 155 had experienced a CHD event, 337 normal weight subjects with prior CHD and 103 CHD-free normal weight subjects were enrolled in the study. Lp(a) levels were determined by an ELISA technique and apo(a) isoforms were detected by a high-resolution immunoblotting method.
Lp(a) levels were similar in the three study groups. Overweight subjects with CHD had Lp(a) concentrations significantly higher than those without [median (interquartile range): 20 (5–50.3) versus 12.6 (2.6–38.6) mg/dl, P < 0.05]. Furthermore, overweight subjects with CHD showed a higher prevalence of low molecular weight apo(a) isoforms than those without (55.5% versus 40.8%, P < 0.05) and with respect to the control group (55.5% versus 39.8%, P < 0.05). Stepwise regression analysis showed that apo(a) phenotypes, but not Lp(a) levels, entered the model as significant independent predictors of CHD in overweight subjects.
Our data indicate that small-sized apo(a) isoforms are associated with CHD in overweight subjects. The characterization of apo(a) phenotypes might serve as a reliable biomarker to better assess the overall CHD risk of each subject with elevated BMI, leading to more intensive treatment of modifiable cardiovascular risk factors.
PMCID: PMC327094  PMID: 14670093
lipoprotein(a) concentration; apolipoprotein(a) isoforms; overweight; coronary heart disease; genetic markers

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