The Journal of laboratory and clinical medicine

Carbamylated proteins activate glomerular mesangial cells and stimulate collagen deposition.

PMID 10072262


Carbamylated proteins formed in renal insufficiency from the spontaneous decomposition of urea exert a variety of metabolic effects. Here we examined the effects of carbamylated proteins on glomerular mesangial cells to determine whether urea retention in early renal insufficiency may itself promote glomerular sclerosis and hasten the progression to kidney failure. To this effect we carbamylated fetal bovine serum proteins in vitro and tested their effect on mesangial cell proliferation (by tritiated thymidine uptake), de novo protein synthesis (by tritiated leucine uptake), collagen I and collagen IV accumulation (by avidin-biotin enzyme immunoassay), and gelatinase levels in the medium (by zymography and quantitative fluorescence assay). Carbamylated fetal bovine serum at concentrations present in uremia increased tritiated thymidine incorporation by 50% without altering tritiated leucine incorporation, and it increased collagens I and IV in the monolayer by 150% to 300%. Gelatinase activity was unchanged. We conclude that carbamylated proteins can activate mesangial cells to a profibrogenic phenotype. From a clinical perspective, the carbamylation of proteins by elevated urea levels may accelerate the progression to kidney failure and thus set up a vicious cycle in which the nitrogen retention itself would cause further progression of fibrosis and deterioration of kidney function.

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Sodium cyanate, 96%