Increased mesangial expansion is one of the most characteristic histological changes in diabetic nephropathy (DN). Although the pathogenesis of DN remains unclear, recent studies associate interleukin (IL) 6 with mesangial proliferative glomerulonephritis. To elucidate the expression and localization of IL-6 mRNA in renal tissues of patients with DN, a high-resolution in situ hybridization using digoxigenin-labeled oligonucleotide was performed. Patients were divided into three groups based on light microscopy findings: mild (group 1), moderate (group 2), and severe (group 3) mesangial expansion. The relationship between the expression of IL-6 mRNA and the degree of glomerular mesangial expansion in DN was examined. Individual cells positive for IL-6 mRNA were observed in glomeruli. These cells were mesangial cells, glomerular epithelial cells, and Bowman's capsule. The signal intensity was strongest in tissues from group 2 but was weak in those from groups 1 and 3. Most cells in the area of mesangial proliferation were strongly stained for IL-6 mRNA, and few positive cells were found in the Kimmelstiel-Wilson nodular lesion. In the interstitium, some tubules, particularly atrophic tubules, and some infiltrating cells were positively stained for IL-6 mRNA. The interstitial expression of IL-6 mRNA correlated significantly with the degree of interstitial injury and was remarkable in tissues from groups 2 and 3. We conclude that IL-6 mRNA is expressed by glomerular resident cells and interstitial cells in the renal tissue of patients with DN and that its expression may be associated with mesangial proliferation and may be involved in the tissue injury of DN.

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