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1.  Lipopolysaccharide induces inducible nitric oxide synthase-dependent podocyte dysfunction via a hypoxia-inducible factor 1α and cell division control protein 42 and Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 pathway 
Urine protein loss in immune complex-mediated diseases such as lupus nephritis is associated with podocyte foot process effacement (podocytopathy) but is not always dependent on glomerular immune complex deposition. Several murine and human studies have associated lupus nephritis with inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) expression in what appear to be podocytes. This study was conducted to determine mechanisms of immune-complex-independent and iNOS-dependent podocyte dysfunction. Conditionally immortalized podocytes were cultured with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and nitric oxide (NO), superoxide (SO), or peroxynitrite donors in the presence or absence of inhibitors of iNOS, reduced nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH) oxidase or monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP-1), or with sepiapterin to increase coupling of iNOS homodimers. Podocyte NO, SO, and MCP-1 production and nitrotyrosine modifications were determined. The podocytopathy phenotype was determined by measuring cell motility and membrane permeability to albumin. This study determined that NO produced by iNOS is sufficient and necessary to induce podocytopathy. NO probably induces this phenotype via hypoxia-inducible factor 1α and cell division control protein 42 and Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1 pathways. With LPS stimulation, neither SO nor peroxynitrite produced by uncoupled iNOS or NADPH oxidase nor MCP-1 was sufficient to induce the full phenotype. This study supports the notion that iNOS may induce autocrine podocyte dysfunction. Thus, targeting iNOS or the pathways of its induction may have therapeutic benefit.
PMCID: PMC4457627  PMID: 25765888
Podocyte; Toll-like receptor 4; Nitric oxide; Superoxide; Lipopolysaccharide; Hypoxia-inducible factor 1α; Cell division control protein 42; Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate 1; Inducible nitric oxide synthase; Lupus nephritis; Peroxynitrite; Free radicals
2.  Premature atherosclerosis is associated with hypovitaminosis D and angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitor non-use in lupus patients 
Our ultimate goal is to identify and target modifiable risk factors that will reduce major cardiovascular events in African-American lupus patients. As a first step toward achieving this goal, this study was designed to explore risk factor models of preclinical atherosclerosis in a predominantly African-American group of SLE patients using variables historically associated with endothelial function in non-lupus populations.
51 subjects with SLE but without a history of clinical cardiovascular events were enrolled. At entry, a Framingham risk factor history and medication list were recorded. Sera and plasma samples were analyzed for lipids, lupus activity markers, and total 25-hydroxyvitamin D (25(OH)D) levels. Carotid ultrasound measurements were performed to determine total plaque area (TPA) in both carotids. Cases had TPA values above age-matched controls from a vascular prevention clinic population. Logistic regression and machine learning analyses were performed to create predictive models.
25(OH)D levels were significantly lower and SLE disease duration was significantly higher in cases. 25(OH)D levels inversely correlated with age-adjusted TPA. ACE-inhibitor non-use associated with case status. Logistic regression models containing ACE-inhibitor use, 25(OH)D levels, and LDL levels had a diagnostic accuracy of 84% for predicting accelerated atherosclerosis. Similar results were obtained with machine learning models, but hydroxychloroquine use associated with controls in these models.
This is the first study to demonstrate an association between atherosclerotic burden and 25(OH)D insufficiency or ACE-inhibitor non-use in lupus patients. These findings provide strong rationale for the study of ACE-inhibitors and vitamin D replenishment as preventive therapies in this high-risk population.
PMCID: PMC3323721  PMID: 22222338
Systemic lupus erythematosus; Atherosclerosis; Vitamin D deficiency; Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors; Hypercholesterolemia
3.  Role of Interferon Alpha in Endothelial Dysfunction: Insights Into Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase–Related Mechanisms 
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune disease that is characterized by the production of autoantibodies against nuclear antigens such as double-stranded DNA. Lupus predominantly affects women (ratio, 9:1). Moreover, premenopausal women with SLE are 50 times more likely to have a myocardial infarction. Although specific risk factors for advanced cardiovascular complications have not been identified in this patient population, endothelial dysfunction is highly prevalent. Recent studies show that the type I interferon signature gene expression coincides with impaired brachial artery flow–mediated dilation and diminished endothelial progenitor cell circulation, both markers of impaired endothelial function. Although many factors promote the development of vascular endothelial dysfunction, all pathways converge on the diminished activity of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) and loss of nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability. Studies examining the effects of type I interferons on eNOS and NO in SLE are missing. This literature review examines the current literature regarding the role of type I interferons in cardiovascular disease and its known effects on regulators of eNOS and NO bioavailability that are important for proper endothelial cell function.
PMCID: PMC4526236  PMID: 24796291
Autoimmune disease; SLE: Systemic Lupus Erythematosus; Endothelial dysfunction; Type I interferons; Endothelial nitric oxide synthase; Lupus
4.  Selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitor suppresses renal thromboxane production but not proliferative lesions in the MRL/lpr murine model of lupus nephritis 
Proliferative lupus nephritis (LN) is marked by increased renal thromboxane (TXA2) production. Targeting the TXA2 receptor or TXA2 synthase effectively improves renal function in humans with LN and improves glomerular pathology in murine LN. This study was designed to address the following hypotheses: 1) TXA2 production in the MRL/MpJ-Tnfrsf6lpr/J (MRL/lpr) model of proliferative lupus nephritis is COX2-dependent, and 2) COX2 inhibitor therapy improves glomerular filtration rate (GFR), proteinuria, markers of innate immune response, and glomerular pathology.
20 female MRL/lpr and 20 BALB/cJ mice were divided into two equal treatment groups: 1) SC-236, a moderately selective COX2 inhibitor, or 2) vehicle. After treatment from 10 to 20 weeks of age, the effectiveness of inhibition of TXA2 was determined by measuring urine TXB2. Response endpoints measured at 20 weeks of age were renal function (GFR), proteinuria, urine nitrate + nitrite (NOX), and glomerular histopathology.
SC236 therapy reduced surrogate markers of renal TXA2 production during early, active glomerulonephritis. When this pharmacodynamic endpoint was reached, therapy improved GFR. Parallel reductions in markers of the innate immune response (urine NOX) during therapy were observed. However, the beneficial effect of SC236 therapy on GFR was only transient, and renal histopathology was not improved in late disease.
These data demonstrate that renal TXA2 production is COX2-dependent in murine LN and suggest that NO production is directly or indirectly COX2-dependent. However, COX2 inhibitor therapy in this model failed to improve renal pathology, making COX2 inhibition a less attractive approach for treating LN.
PMCID: PMC3022955  PMID: 20924284
Lupus nephritis; animal models; cyclooxygenase 2; nitric oxide; glomerular filtration rate; thromboxane A2
5.  Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase Inhibitor SD-3651 Reduces Proteinuria in MRL/lpr Mice Deficient in the NOS2 Gene 
Several studies have demonstrated the effectiveness of arginine analog nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor therapy in preventing and treating murine lupus nephritis. However, MRL/MpJ-FASlpr (MRL/lpr) mice lacking a functional NOS2 (inducible NOS [iNOS]) gene (NOS2−/−) develop proliferative glomerulonephritis in a fashion similar to their wild-type (wt) littermates. This finding suggests that the effect of arginine analog NOS inhibitors is through a non-iNOS–mediated mechanism. This study was designed to address this hypothesis.
NOS2−/− mice were given either vehicle or a NOS inhibitor (SD-3651) to determine if pharmacological NOS inhibition prevented glomerulonephritis, using wt mice as positive controls. Urine was collected fortnightly to measure albumin. At the time of full disease expression in wt mice, all mice were killed, and renal tissue was examined for light, immunofluorescence, and electron microscopic evidence of disease. Serum was analyzed for anti–double-stranded DNA antibody production.
NOS2−/− mice had higher serum anti–double-stranded DNA antibody antibody levels than those of wt mice. SD-3651 therapy reduced proteinuria, glomerular immunoglobulin G deposition, and electron microscopic evidence of podocytopathy and endothelial cell swelling without affecting proliferative lesions by light microscopy.
These studies confirm that genetic iNOS deficiency alone is insufficient to prevent proliferative glomerulonephritis and suggest that iNOS activity may inhibit autoantibody production. These results also suggest that SD-3651 therapy acts via a non–iNOS-mediated mechanism to prevent endothelial cell and podocyte pathology. Studies that elucidate this mechanism could provide a useful drug target for the treatment of nephritis.
PMCID: PMC2637653  PMID: 18797415
lupus nephritis; nitric oxide; animal models; nitric oxide synthase; enzyme inhibitors
6.  Association of Serum Nitrate and Nitrite Levels With Longitudinal Assessments of Disease Activity and Damage in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus and Lupus Nephritis 
Arthritis and rheumatism  2008;58(1):263-272.
Reactive intermediate production is an essential component of the innate immune response that is induced during disease activity in murine lupus. This study was undertaken to determine whether a marker of systemic nitric oxide (NO) production correlates with prospectively studied disease activity in human systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and lupus nephritis patients.
Eighty-three SLE patients and 40 control subjects were studied longitudinally. The SLE group included 23 patients with lupus nephritis documented by renal biopsy and 26 with a history of lupus nephritis. During each visit, following a 24-hour low-nitrate diet, traditional markers of disease activity and damage were determined. Serum nitrate plus nitrite (NOx) levels were determined by chemiluminescence detection.
NOx levels were higher in SLE patients than in controls during the first visit. In univariate longitudinal analyses, NOx levels were associated with SLE Disease Activity Index scores. In multivariate analyses, NOx levels were associated with serum levels of C3 and creatinine and the urinary protein:creatinine ratio. Among patients with lupus nephritis, those with proliferative lesions had higher NOx levels, and higher NOx levels were associated with accumulation of renal damage and lack of response to therapy.
This is the first study to prospectively demonstrate longitudinal associations between serum NOx levels and markers of SLE and lupus nephritis disease activity. The more pronounced association with proliferative lupus nephritis and with longitudinal response to lupus nephritis therapy provides a rationale for the study of reactive intermediates as biomarkers of disease activity and therapeutic targets in proliferative lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC2733831  PMID: 18163495
7.  NADPH oxidase and nitric oxide synthase dependent superoxide production is increased in proliferative lupus nephritis 
Lupus  2013;22(13):1361-1370.
Lupus nephritis (LN) is an immune complex-mediated glomerulonephritis. Proliferative LN (PLN, International Society of Nephrology and Renal Pathology Society (ISN/RPS) classes III and IV)) often leads to renal injury or failure despite traditional induction and maintenance therapy. Successful targeted therapeutic development requires insight into mediators of inflammation in PLN. Superoxide (SO) and its metabolites are mediators of the innate immune response through their ability to mediate reduction-oxidation signaling. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) modulates inflammatory responses in endothelial cells. We hypothesized that markers of SO production would be increased in active PLN and that SO production would be dependent on the activity of select enzymes in the renal cortex.
Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus were enrolled at the time of renal biopsy for active LN of all classes. Serum collected at baseline was analyzed by HPLC with electrochemical detection for markers of SO production (durable modifications of serum protein Tyr ultimately requiring SO as a substrate). Renal cortex from MRL/MpJ-FASlpr (MRL/lpr) mice with and without functional eNOS was analyzed during active disease for superoxide (SO) production with and without inhibitors of SO producing enzymes.
Serum protein modifications indicative of total SO production were significantly higher in patients with PLN. These markers were increased in association with more active, inflammatory PLN. Mice lacking functional eNOS had 80% higher levels of renal cortical SO during active disease, and inhibitors of nitric oxide synthase and NADPH oxidase reduced these levels by 60% and 77%, respectively.
These studies demonstrate that SO production is unique to active PLN in a NOS and NADPH oxidase-dependent fashion. These findings suggest the emulating or augmenting eNOS activity or inhibiting NADPH oxidase SO production may be targets of therapy in patients with PLN. The markers of SO production used in this study could rationally be used to select SO-modulating therapies and serve as pharmacodynamic indicators for dose titration.
PMCID: PMC3839955  PMID: 24106214
Lupus nephritis; Systemic lupus erythematosus; Nitric oxide; Endothelial nitric oxide synthase; NADPH Oxidase; Proliferative lupus nephritis; Superoxide; Oxidation-reduction; Inflammation
8.  Endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase Reduces Crescentic and Necrotic Glomerular Lesions, Reactive Oxygen Production, and MCP1 Production in Murine Lupus Nephritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(5):e64650.
Systemic lupus erythematosus, in both animal models and in humans, is characterized by autoantibody production followed by immune complex deposition in target tissues. Ensuing target organ damage is modulated by reactive intermediates, including reactive nitrogen and oxygen species, through as of now incompletely understood mechanisms. Endothelial nitric oxide synthase is known to impact vascular reactivity; however its impact on reactive intermediate production and inflammatory renal disease is less well defined. In this study, we assessed the impact of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) on disease in lupus prone MRL/lpr mice. Mice lacking eNOS developed earlier more severe disease with decreased survival. eNOS deficient mice died sooner and developed significantly more glomerular crescents, necrosis, inflammatory infiltrates and vasculitis, indicating a role for eNOS in modulating these renal lesions. Immune complex deposition was similar between groups, indicating the impact of eNOS is distal to antibody/complement glomerular deposition. Urinary nitric oxide production was decreased in the eNOS deficient mice, while proteinuria was increased. Urinary monocyte chemotactic protein-1 was also increased in the knockout mice. CD4+ T cells from MRL/lpr mice demonstrated mitochondrial hyperpolarization, increased nitric oxide and superoxide production and increased calcium flux compared to B6 control mice. Deficiency of eNOS resulted in decreased nitric oxide and mitochondrial calcium levels but had no effect on mitochondrial hyperpolarization. Renal cortices from MRL/lpr mice that are eNOS deficient demonstrated increased superoxide production, which was blocked by both nitric oxide synthase and NADPH oxidase inhibitors. These studies thus demonstrate a key role for eNOS in modulating renal disease in lupus prone MRL/lpr mice. The impact appears to be mediated by effects on superoxide production in the kidney, impacting downstream mediators such as monocyte chemotactic protein-1. These results suggest that modulation of eNOS may be a novel therapeutic approach to treating lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC3669382  PMID: 23741359
9.  Lack of nitric oxide synthases increases lipoprotein immune complex deposition in the aorta and elevates plasma sphingolipid levels in lupus 
Cellular Immunology  2012;276(1-2):42-51.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients display impaired endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS) function required for normal vasodilatation. SLE patients express increased compensatory activity of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) generating excess nitric oxide that may result in inflammation. We examined the effects of genetic deletion of NOS2 and NOS3, encoding iNOS and eNOS respectively, on accelerated vascular disease in MRL/lpr lupus mouse model. NOS2 and NOS3 knockout (KO) MRL/lpr mice had higher plasma levels of triglycerides (23% and 35%, respectively), ceramide (45% and 21%, respectively), and sphingosine 1-phosphate (S1P) (21%) compared to counterpart MRL/lpr controls. Plasma levels of the anti-inflammatory cytokine interleukin 10 (IL-10) in NOS2 and NOS3 KO MRL/lpr mice were lower (53% and 80%, respectively) than counterpart controls. Nodule-like lesions in the adventitia were detected in aortas from both NOS2 and NOS3 KO MRL/lpr mice. Immunohistochemical evaluation of the lesions revealed activated endothelial cells and lipid-laden macrophages (foam cells), elevated sphingosine kinase 1 expression, and oxidized low-density lipoprotein immune complexes (oxLDL-IC). The findings suggest that advanced vascular disease in NOS2 and NOS3 KO MRL/lpr mice maybe mediated by increased plasma triglycerides, ceramide and S1P; decreased plasma IL-10; and accumulation of oxLDL-IC in the vessel wall. The results expose possible new targets to mitigate lupus-associated complications.
PMCID: PMC3399025  PMID: 22560558
lupus; nitric oxide synthase; sphingosine 1-phosphate; sphingosine kinase; ceramide; oxidized LDL
10.  Inhibition of Sphingosine Kinase-2 in a Murine Model of Lupus Nephritis 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(1):e53521.
Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), a potent bioactive lipid, is emerging as a central mediator in inflammation and immune responses. We have previously implicated S1P and its synthetic enzyme sphingosine kinase (SK) in inflammatory and autoimmune disorders, including inflammatory bowel disease and rheumatoid arthritis. Generation of S1P requires phosphorylation of sphingosine by SK, of which there are two isoforms. Numerous studies have implicated SK1 in immune cell trafficking, inflammation and autoimmune disorders. In this study, we set out to determine the role of SK and S1P in lupus nephritis (LN). To this end, we examined S1P and dihydro-S1P (dh-S1P) levels in serum and kidney tissues from a mouse model of LN. Interestingly dh-S1P was significantly elevated in serum and kidney tissue from LN mice, which is more readily phosphorylated by SK2. Therefore, we employed the use of the specific SK2 inhibitor, ABC294640 in our murine model of LN. Treatment with ABC294640 did not improve vascular or interstitial pathology associated with LN. However, mice treated with the SK2 inhibitor did demonstrate decreases in glomerular pathology and accumulation of B and T cells in the spleen these were not statistically different from lpr mice treated with vehicle. LN mice treated with ABC294640 did not have improved urine thromboxane levels or urine proteinuria measurements. Both S1P and dh-S1P levels in circulation were significantly reduced with ABC294640 treatment; however, dh-S1P was actually elevated in kidneys from LN mice treated with ABC294640. Together these data demonstrate a role for SKs in LN; however, they suggest that inhibition of SK1 or perhaps both SK isoforms would better prevent elevations in S1P and dh-S1P and potentially better protect against LN.
PMCID: PMC3536755  PMID: 23301082
11.  Overcoming the Effects of Matrix Interference in the Measurement of Urine Protein Analytes 
Biomarker Insights  2012;7:1-8.
Using multiplex bead assays to measure urine proteins has a great potential for biomarker discovery, but substances in urine (the matrix) can interfere with assay measurements. By comparing the recovery of urine spiked with known quantities of several common analytes, this study demonstrated that the urine matrix variably interfered with the accurate measurement of low abundance proteins. Dilution of the urine permitted a more accurate measure of these proteins, equivalent to the standard dilution technique when the diluted analytes were above the limits of detection of the assay. Therefore, dilution can be used as an effective technique for over-coming urine matrix effects in urine immunoassays. These results may be applicable to other biological fluids in which matrix components interfere with assay performance.
PMCID: PMC3290108  PMID: 22403482
biomarkers; body fluids urine; analysis/urine; standard addition; assay validation
12.  The biology of reactive intermediates in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Autoimmunity  2010;43(1):56-63.
Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is an autoimmune syndrome marked by autoantibody production. Innate immunity is essential to transform humoral autoimmunity into the clinical lupus phenotype. Nitric oxide (NO) is a membrane-permeable signaling molecule involved in a broad array of biologic processes through its ability to modify proteins, lipids, and DNA and alter their function and immunogenicity. The literature regarding mechanisms through which NO regulates inflammation and cell survival is filled with contradictory findings. However, the effects of NO on cellular processes depend on its concentration and its interaction with reactive oxygen. Understanding this interaction will be essential to determine mechanisms through which reactive intermediates induce cellular autoimmunity and contribute to a sustained innate immune response and organ damage in SLE.
PMCID: PMC2857664  PMID: 20001422
Nitric oxide; systemic lupus erythematosus; reactive oxygen species; free radicals; oxidative stress
13.  The biology of nitric oxide and other reactive intermediates in systemic lupus erythematosus 
Clinical immunology (Orlando, Fla.)  2006;121(3):243-250.
Formation of reactive nitrogen and oxygen intermediates (RNI and ROI) is an essential part of the innate immune response. Markers of systemic RNI production are increased in the setting of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) activity. Several lines of evidence suggest mechanisms through which the activity of inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) is pathogenic in SLE, including the ability of peroxynitrite (ONOO−, a product of iNOS activity) to modify proteins, lipids, and DNA. These modifications can alter enzyme activity and may increase the immunogenicity of self antigens, leading to a break in immune tolerance. In humans, observational data suggest that overexpression of iNOS and increased production of ONOO− lead to glomerular and vascular pathology. Therapies designed to target iNOS activity or scavenge ROI and RNI are in development and may provide the means to reduce the pathogenic consequences of ROI and RNI in SLE.
PMCID: PMC2765327  PMID: 16861040
Nitric oxide; Lupus; Reactive oxygen; species; Reactive nitrogen; species; 3-Nitrotyrosine; Lipid peroxidation; Apoptosis; Autoantigens
14.  Urine Biomarkers Predict the Cause of Glomerular Disease 
Diagnosis of the type of glomerular disease that causes the nephrotic syndrome is necessary for appropriate treatment and typically requires a renal biopsy. The goal of this study was to identify candidate protein biomarkers to diagnose glomerular diseases. Proteomic methods and informatic analysis were used to identify patterns of urine proteins that are characteristic of the diseases. Urine proteins were separated by two-dimensional electrophoresis in 32 patients with FSGS, lupus nephritis, membranous nephropathy, or diabetic nephropathy. Protein abundances from 16 patients were used to train an artificial neural network to create a prediction algorithm. The remaining 16 patients were used as an external validation set to test the accuracy of the prediction algorithm. In the validation set, the model predicted the presence of the diseases with sensitivities between 75 and 86% and specificities from 92 to 67%. The probability of obtaining these results in the novel set by chance is 5 × 10−8. Twenty-one gel spots were most important for the differentiation of the diseases. The spots were cut from the gel, and 20 were identified by mass spectrometry as charge forms of 11 plasma proteins: Orosomucoid, transferrin, α-1 microglobulin, zinc α-2 glycoprotein, α-1 antitrypsin, complement factor B, haptoglobin, transthyretin, plasma retinol binding protein, albumin, and hemopexin. These data show that diseases that cause nephrotic syndrome change glomerular protein permeability in characteristic patterns. The fingerprint of urine protein charge forms identifies the glomerular disease. The identified proteins are candidate biomarkers that can be tested in assays that are more amenable to clinical testing.
PMCID: PMC2733832  PMID: 17301191
15.  Prediction of urinary protein markers in lupus nephritis 
Kidney international  2005;68(6):2588-2592.
Lupus nephritis is divided into six classes and scored according to activity and chronicity indices based on histologic findings. Treatment differs based on the pathologic findings. Renal biopsy is currently the only way to accurately predict class and activity and chronicity indices. We propose to use patterns of abundance of urine proteins to identify class and disease indices.
Urine was collected from 20 consecutive patients immediately prior to biopsy for evaluation of lupus nephritis. The International Society of Nephrology/Renal Pathology Society (ISN/RPS) class of lupus nephritis, activity, and chronicity indices were determined by a renal pathologist. Proteins were separated by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis. Artificial neural networks were trained on normalized spot abundance values.
Biopsy specimens were classified in the database according to ISN/RPS class, activity, and chronicity. Nine samples had characteristics of more than one class present. Receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves of the trained networks demonstrated areas under the curve ranging from 0.85 to 0.95. The sensitivity and specificity for the ISN/RPS classes were class II 100%, 100%; III 86%, 100%; IV 100%, 92%; and V 92%, 50%. Activity and chronicity indices had r values of 0.77 and 0.87, respectively. A list of spots was obtained that provided diagnostic sensitivity to the analysis.
We have identified a list of protein spots that can be used to develop a clinical assay to predict ISN/RPS class and chronicity for patients with lupus nephritis. An assay based on antibodies against these spots could eliminate the need for renal biopsy, allow frequent evaluation of disease status, and begin specific therapy for patients with lupus nephritis.
PMCID: PMC2667626  PMID: 16316334
lupus nephritis; biomarkers; urine; electrophoresis; two-dimensional gel

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