Renal fibrosis is a hallmark of chronic kidney disease (CKD) caused by an imbalance between formation and degradation of extracellular matrix proteins. We investigated the collagen turnover profile of 81 non-dialysis CKD stage 2-5 patients by measuring peptides reflecting formation and degradation of collagen type (COL) I, III, IV, and VI. Based on the collagen turnover profile, we identified four clusters of patients. Cluster 1 contained one patient with prostate cancer, who had a distinct collagen turnover. The other clusters generally had severe (Cluster 2), moderate (Cluster 4), or mild CKD (Cluster 3). Cluster 4 patients were characterized by higher levels of COL III, COL IV, and COL VI (all p < 0.001) degradation fragments in plasma, while patients in Clusters 2 and 4 had higher levels of COL VI formation (p < 0.05). COL IV fragments in plasma were lower in Cluster 2 (p < 0.01). Urinary COL III fragments decreased from Cluster 3 to 4, and from Cluster 4 to 2 (both p < 0.001). We show that patients with similar kidney function have a different collagen remodeling profile, suggesting that different phenotypes exist with different disease activity and potentially disease progression. Biomarkers of collagen remodeling could provide additional information to traditional markers of renal function.
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