Mannose receptor 2 (Mrc2) expresses an extracellular fibronectin type II domain that binds to and internalizes collagen, suggesting that it may play a role in modulating renal fibrosis. Here, we found that Mrc2 levels were very low in normal kidneys but subsets of interstitial myofibroblasts and macrophages upregulated Mrc2 after unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO). Renal fibrosis and renal parenchymal damage were significantly worse in Mrc2-deficient mice. Similarly, Mrc2-deficient Col4α3 -/- mice with hereditary nephritis had significantly higher levels of total kidney collagen, serum BUN, and urinary protein than Mrc2-sufficient Col4α3 -/- mice. The more severe phenotype seemed to be the result of reduced collagen turnover, because procollagen III (α1) mRNA levels and fractional collagen synthesis in the wildtype and Mrc2-deficient kidneys were similar after UUO. Although Mrc2 associates with the urokinase receptor, differences in renal urokinase activity did not account for the increased fibrosis in the Mrc2-deficient mice. Treatingwild-type mice with a cathepsin inhibitor, which blocks proteases implicated in Mrc2-mediated collagen degradation, worsened UUO-induced renal fibrosis. Cathepsin mRNA profiles were similar in Mrc2-positive fibroblasts and macrophages, and Mrc2 genotype did not alter relative cathepsin mRNA levels. Taken together, these data establish an important fibrosis-attenuating role for Mrc2-expressing renal interstitial cells and suggest the involvement of a lysosomal collagen turnover pathway.
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