A spatially anchored transcriptomic atlas of the human kidney papilla identifies significant immune injury and matrix remodeling in patients with stone disease


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Kidney stone disease causes significant morbidity and increases health care utilization. The pathogenesis of stone disease is not completely understood, due in part to the poor characterization of the cellular and molecular makeup of the kidney papilla and its alteration with disease. We deciphered the cellular and molecular niche of the human renal papilla in patients with calcium oxalate (CaOx) stone disease compared to healthy subjects using single nuclear RNA sequencing, spatial transcriptomics and high-resolution large-scale multiplexed 3D and Co-Detection by indexing (CODEX) imaging. In addition to identifying cell types important in papillary physiology, we defined subtypes of immune, stromal and principal cells enriched in the papilla, and characterized an undifferentiated epithelial cell cluster that was more prevalent in stone patients. Despite the focal nature of mineral deposition in nephrolithiasis, we uncovered a global injury signature involving multiple cell types within the papilla, characterized by immune activation, oxidative stress and extracellular matrix remodeling. The microenvironment of mineral deposition had features of an immune synapse with antigen presenting inflammatory macrophages interacting with T cells, and an immune repertoire ranging from inflammation to fibrosis. The expression of MMP7 and MMP9 was associated with stone disease and mineral deposition, respectively. MMP7 and MMP9 were significantly increased in the urine of patients with CaOx stone disease compared to non-stone formers, and their levels correlated with disease activity in stone formers. Our results define the spatial molecular landscape and specific pathways contributing to stone-mediated injury in the human papilla, and identify potential urinary biomarkers. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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