Tubulointerstitial fibrosis is a major pathological feature in chronic kidney disease (CKD) and collagen type III (COL3) is a major component of the renal fibrotic scar. We hypothesized that a dysregulated turnover of COL3 is an important determinant of CKD progression. We assessed the relationship between fragments reflecting active formation (PRO-C3) and degradation (C3M) of COL3 and CKD disease progression and mortality in a prospective cohort of CKD patients.

We measured PRO-C3 and C3M in urine (uPRO-C3 and uC3M) and serum (sPRO-C3 and sC3M) of 500 patients from the Renal Impairment in Secondary Care study. Disease progression was defined as a decline in estimated glomerular filtration rate >30% or the start of renal replacement therapy within 12 and 30 months.

Levels of uC3M/creatinine decreased, whereas levels of uPRO-C3/creatinine and sPRO-C3 increased with increasing CKD stage. uC3M/creatinine was inversely and independently associated with disease progression by 12 months {odds ratio [OR] 0.39 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.18–0.83]; P = 0.01 per doubling of uC3M/creatinine} with development of end-stage renal disease [hazard ratio (HR) 0.70 (95% CI 0.50–0.97); P = 0.03 per doubling of uC3M/creatinine]. sPRO-C3 at baseline was independently associated with increased mortality [HR 1.93 (95% CI 1.21–3.1); P = 0.006 per doubling of sPRO-C3] and disease progression by 30 months [OR 2.16 (95% CI 1.21–3.84); P = 0.009 per doubling of sPRO-C3].

Dynamic products of COL3 formation and degradation were independently associated with CKD progression and mortality and may represent an opportunity to link pathological processes with targeted treatments against fibrosis.