The progression of kidney disease to renal failure correlates with infiltration of mononuclear immune cells into the tubulointerstitium. These infiltrates contain macrophages, DCs, and T cells, but the role of each cell type in disease progression is unclear. To investigate the underlying immune mechanisms, we generated transgenic mice that selectively expressed the model antigens ovalbumin and hen egg lysozyme in glomerular podocytes (NOH mice). Coinjection of ovalbumin-specific transgenic CD8+ CTLs and CD4 + Th cells into NOH mice resulted in periglomerular mononuclear infiltrates and inflammation of parietal epithelial cells, similar to lesions frequently observed in human chronic glomerulonephritis. Repetitive T cell injections aggravated infiltration and caused progression to structural and functional kidney damage after 4 weeks. Mechanistic analysis revealed that DCs in renal lymph nodes constitutively cross-presented ovalbumin and activated CTLs. These CTLs released further ovalbumin for CTL activation in the lymph nodes and for simultaneous presentation to Th cells by distinct DC subsets residing in the kidney tubulointerstitium. Crosstalk between tubulointerstitial DCs and Th cells resulted in intrarenal cytokine and chemokine production and in recruitment of more CTLs, monocyte-derived DCs, and macrophages. The importance of DCs was established by the fact that DC depletion rapidly resolved established kidney immunopathology. These findings demonstrate that glomerular antigen-specific CTLs and Th cells can jointly induce renal immunopathology and identify kidney DCs as a mechanistic link between glomerular injury and the progression of kidney disease.
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