The lifetime incidence of kidney stones is about two times greater in men compared to women. Extracellular vesicles (EVs) shed from activated cells are present in the urine and may reflect or even mediate renal physiology and/or pathology.
This study was designed to standardize methodology to characterize urinary EVs by digital flow cytometry and to identify possible sex differences in EVs in persons with and without their first symptomatic kidney stones. Twenty-four-hour urine collections were obtained from persons presenting with their first kidney stone episode (nâ€‰=â€‰50 women, 60 men; age 19-76 years) and sex- and age-matched controls from the general population (nâ€‰=â€‰24 women, 36 men).
Standardization: Size of EV was variable within all groups. EV positivity was verified with two fluorophores for surface phosphatidylserine and/or using two different protein markers specific for renal-specific cells. The number of phosphatidylserine- and exosome marker-positive EVs did not correlate with urine osmolality and were similar in fresh vs. frozen and between two sequential urine collections from the same individual.
Sex differences: Urine from women controls contained greater (P 0.05) numbers of EVs positive for phosphatidylserine, exosomes, inflammatory factors and adhesion molecules, and cell-specific markers from different segments of the nephron, renal pelvis, and bladder compared to control men. In contrast, urine from women with kidney stones contained significantly (P0.05) lower numbers of EVs derived from podocytes, parietal cells, proximal convoluted tubule, thin and thick loop of Henle, distal tubule, collecting duct, renal pelvis, and bladder compared to control women and contained similar quantities of these types of EVs in men with and without kidney stones. There were also no sex differences in EVs positive for cell adhesion (E-cadherin and inter-cellular adhesion molecule-1 [ICAM-1]) molecules.
Unlike women who do not have kidney stones, EVs in urine from women with nephrolithiasis are similar to men with and without kidney stones. Thus, EVs may mediate or reflect aspects of kidney stone pathogenesis and perhaps provide clues regarding sex differences in kidney stone incidence rates.