The role of the glomerular visceral epithelial cell in the physiologic turnover and pathologic breakdown of the glomerular extracellular matrix has remained largely unexplored. In this study a 98-kD neutral proteinase secreted by cultured rat visceral glomerular epithelial cells was shown to be a calcium, zinc-dependent enzyme secreted in latent form. In addition, the protein was heavily glycosylated and demonstrated proteolytic activity against Type I gelatin, Type IV collagen gelatin, and fibronectin. The similarity in molecular mass and substrate specificities to the 92-kD human matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9, or gelatinase B) suggested the identity of this activity, which was confirmed by immunoprecipitation and Northern blot analysis. The differences in molecular mass (98 vs. 92 kD) were not due to species-specific differences in glycosylation patterns, since cultured rat peritoneal macrophages secreted MMP-9 as a 92-kD enzyme. Furthermore, transfection of the human MMP-9 cDNA into rat glomerular epithelial cells yielded the 98-kD product. Using a specific monoclonal anti-MMP-9 antibody and in situ reverse transcription (ISRT) analysis of MMP-9 mRNA, the expression of this enzyme was evaluated in vivo. Normal rat glomeruli expressed little immunohistochemical or ISRT staining for MMP-9, while in rats with passive Heymann nephritis there was a major increase in MMP-9 protein and mRNA staining within the visceral epithelial cells. The temporal patterns of MMP-9 expression correlated with the period of proteinuria associated with this model, suggesting that a causal relationship may exist between GEC MMP-9 expression and changes in glomerular capillary permeability.
J I McMillan, J W Riordan, W G Couser, A S Pollock, D H Lovett