We investigated in a cross-sectional study the levels of serum and urinary damage markers in diabetic patients ( n = 94) and nondiabetic control subjects ( n = 45) to study the association of glomerular (IgG), proximal tubular (kidney injury molecule [KIM]-1, N-acetyl-β- d-glucosaminidase [NAG], neutrophil gelatinase–associated lipocalin [NGAL], and cystatin C), and distal tubular (heart fatty acid–binding protein [H-FABP]) damage markers with kidney disease severity, as assessed by albuminuria and estimated glomerular filtration rate (eGFR).
Damage markers were measured in triplicate in fresh morning urine samples and in plasma.
Of the diabetic patients, 41 were normoalbuminuric, 41 were microalbuminuric, and 12 were macroalbuminuric. Urinary NAG (ninefold), NGAL (1.5-fold), and H-FABP (3.5-fold) were significantly elevated in normoalbuminuric diabetic patients compared with nondiabetic control subjects. Urinary concentrations of all markers increased per albuminuria stratum, except KIM-1. All urinary damage markers, except KIM-1, were significantly associated with albuminuria, independent of age, sex, and plasma concentrations of the corresponding biomarker (standard βs between 0.35 and 0.87; all P ≤ 0.001). All urinary damage markers, except KIM-1, were significantly associated with the eGFR in univariate models (standard βs between −0.38 and −0.21; all P < 0.04). After adjusting for age, sex, plasma concentration of the corresponding damage marker, and albuminuria, only the association of H-FABP with eGFR remained significant (standard β −0.26; P = 0.037).
Glomerular and tubular markers are associated with albuminuria, independently of eGFR, suggesting that albuminuria reflects both glomerular and tubulointerstitial damage. Only urinary H-FABP is associated with eGFR independently of albuminuria and, therefore, may be a promising urinary damage marker to assess diabetic kidney disease.