Background. MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have been found in virtually all body fluids and used successfully as biomarkers for various diseases. Evidence indicates that miRNAs have important roles in IgA nephropathy (IgAN), a major cause of renal failure. In this study, we looked for differentially expressed miRNAs in IgAN and further evaluated the correlations between candidate miRNAs and the severity of IgAN.
Methods. Microarray and RT-qRCR (real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction) were sequentially used to screen and further verify miRNA expression profiles in urinary sediments of IgAN patients in two independent cohorts. The screening cohort consisted of 32 urine samples from 18 patients with IgAN, 4 patients with MN (membranous nephropathy), 4 patients with MCD (minimal changes disease) and 6 healthy subjects; the validation cohort consisted of 102 IgAN patients, 41 MN patients, 27 MCD patients and 34 healthy subjects. The renal pathological lesions of patients with IgAN were evaluated according to Lee’s grading system and Oxford classification.
Results. At the screening phase, significance analysis of microarrays analysis showed that no miRNA was differentially expressed in the IgAN group compared to all control groups. But IgAN grade I–II and III subgroups (according to Lee’s grading system) shared dysregulation of two miRNAs (miR-3613-3p and miR-4668-5p). At the validation phase, RT-qPCR results showed that urinary level of miR-3613-3p was significantly lower in IgAN than that in MN, MCD and healthy controls (0.47, 0.44 and 0.24 folds, respectively, all P < 0.01 by Mann–Whitney U test); urinary level of miR-4668-5p was also significantly lower in IgAN than that in healthy controls (0.49 fold, P < 0.01). Significant correlations were found between urinary levels of miR-3613-3p with 24-hour urinary protein excretion (Spearman r = 0.50, P = 0.034), eGFR (estimated glomerular filtration rate) (r = − 0.48, P = 0.043) and Lee’s grades (r = 0.57, P = 0.014). Similarly, miR-4668-5p was significantly correlated with eGFR (r = − 0.50, P = 0.034) and Lee’s grades (r = 0.57, P = 0.013). For segmental glomerulosclerosis according to Oxford classification, patients scored as S0 had significantly lower levels of urinary miR-3613-3p and miR-4668-5p than those scored as S1 (0.41 and 0.43 folds, respectively, all P < 0.05).
Conclusions. The expression profile of miRNAs was significantly altered in urinary sediments from patients with IgAN. Urinary expression of miR-3613-3p was down-regulated in patients with IgAN. Moreover, urinary levels of both miR-3613-3p and miR-4668-5p were correlated with disease severity. Further studies are needed to explore the roles of miR-3613-3p and miR-4668-5p in the pathogenesis and progression of IgA nephropathy.