Background. In addition to classically activated macrophages that have effector roles in tissue injury, alternatively activated M2 macrophages are involved in the resolution of inflammation in animal models of kidney disease. To clarify the clinical relevance of macrophage phenotypes in human glomerular diseases, we evaluated the renal accumulation of macrophages and plasma and urine levels of CD163, an M2 marker, in lupus nephritis (LN) patients. Methods. Kidney biopsies and plasma and urine samples were obtained from LN patients who underwent renal biopsy between 2008 and 2012. CD163+, CD68+ and CD204+ cells were counted in paraffin-embedded and frozen sections. LN histological activity was evaluated semiquantitatively using the biopsy activity index. Plasma and urinary soluble CD163 (sCD163) concentrations were also measured and evaluated for their significance as potential LN biomarkers. Results. Immunohistological analysis of glomeruli from LN patients revealed that >60% of CD68+ macrophages had merged with CD163+ cells. The increased number of glomerular CD163+ macrophages was correlated with LN severity, as determined by the biopsy active index (r = 0.635). Urinary (u-) sCD163 level was strongly correlated with glomerular CD163+ cell counts and histological disease score as well as urinary monocyte chemoattractant protein 1 levels (r = 0.638 and 0.592, respectively). Furthermore, the u-sCD163 level was higher in patients with active LN than in those with other diseases. Conclusions. Glomerular CD163+ macrophages are the predominant phenotype in the kidneys of lupus patients. These findings indicate that the u-sCD163 level can serve as a biomarker for macrophage-dependent glomerular inflammation in human LN.
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