Urinary exosome proteomic profiling defines stage-specific rapid progression of autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease and tolvaptan efficacy

Katie L. Raby, Harry Horsely, Aidan McCarthy-Boxer, Jill T. Norman, Patricia D. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


ADPKD is the most common genetic disease of the kidney leading to end-stage renal disease necessitating renal replacement therapy at any time between the 1st and 8th decades of life due to widely variable rates of disease progression. This presents significant patient anxiety and a significant prognostic and therapeutic challenge. Tolvaptan is the only approved drug licensed to slow ADPKD progression by reducing renal cystic expansion but side-effects can limit its efficacy. To address the need to identify new biomarkers to monitor progression of ADPKD and to evaluate the therapeutic effects of Tolvaptan, proteomic analysis was conducted on defined (40-100nm) urinary exosomes isolated from ADPKD patients phenotyped and clinically monitored over a 10-year period. Comparative Gene Ontology analysis of Tandem Mass Tag labelled mass spectrometry-derived protein profiles from urinary exosomes from ADPKD patients with rapid (>10ml/min/5 years decline in estimated glomerular filtration rate) versus slow progression showed distinctive patterns of pathway up-regulation. Clear discrimination between rapid and slowly-progressive profiles were seen in all stages functional decline in ADPKD patients whether with mild (>70ml/min), moderate (50-69ml/min) or severe (<49ml/min) disease at onset. Discriminatory pathways and proteins included Notch-, integrin- and growth factor-signalling; microtubular kinase, vesicular proteins and epidermal growth factor substrates. Confocal microscopy of fluorescently-labelled normal versus ADPKD epithelial cell-derived exosomes in vitro also identified ADPKD-dependent abnormalities in intracellular vesicular trafficking and implicated changes in ADPKD-dependent exosome secretion and target cell uptake as factors underlying urinary exosome excretion biomarker properties. Comparative proteomic analysis of urinary exosomal proteins in individual patients before and after treatment with Tolvaptan for 4 years also identified distinct patterns of pathway modification dependent on the degree of effectiveness of the therapeutic response. Up-regulation of Wnt-pathway and vesicular proteins were characteristic of urinary exosomes from ADPKD patients with good responses to Tolvaptan while upregulation of angiogenesis pathways and additional molecular forms of vasopressin receptor AVPR2 were characteristic in urinary exosomes of ADPKD patients with poor responses. Taken together, these studies conclude that proteomic profiling of urinary exosome biomarkers provides a specific, sensitive and practical non-invasive method to identify and monitor the rate of disease progression and the effects of Tolvaptan therapy in individual ADPKD patients. This provides a means to identify those patients most likely to benefit maximally from therapy and to progress towards a personalization of ADPKD prognosis and management.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100013
JournalBBA Advances
StatePublished - Jan 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • ADPKD progression
  • Exosomes
  • Proteomics
  • Tolvaptan effects
  • Urinary biomarkers
  • Vesicular trafficking


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