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      The Genetic and Environmental Factors of Primary Membranous Nephropathy: An Overview from China

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          Primary membranous nephropathy (pMN) is the most common cause of nephrotic syndrome in adults. The discovery of the 2 autoantigens, M-type phospholipase A2 receptor (PLA2R) and thrombospondin type-1 domain-containing 7A (THSD7A), has defined pMN as an autoimmune disease. A remarkable increase in the frequency of pMN in primary glomerular disease was witnessed in China. The genetic and environmental contributors to disease susceptibility have been investigated in these patients.


          We reviewed recent publications in genetic and environmental studies of pMN, focusing mainly on those undertaken in China. Following a genome-wide association study, the gene-gene interaction between the 2 most significant risk factors, PLA2R1 and DQA1, was validated in Chinese patients with MN. Fine mapping on human leukocyte antigen (HLA) locus found that DRB1*1501 and DRB1*0301 were risk alleles. Three amino acid residues on positions 13 and 71 of HLA-DRβ1 chain may confer the susceptibility to pMN by presenting T-cell epitopes on PLA2R. Another study found that DRB3*0202 was the most likely culprit allele for the signal at DRB1*0301. One environmental risk factor for pMN has been identified as the long-term exposure to high levels of PM 2.5 in Chinese patients with MN. Each 10 μg/m 3 increase in PM 2.5 concentration was associated with 14% higher odds for pMN in the regions with PM 2.5 above 70 μg/m 3.

          Key Message

          A gene-environment interaction is suspected as an underlying mechanism for the increasing trend of pMN in China.

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          Most cited references 71

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          Pathophysiological advances in membranous nephropathy: time for a shift in patient's care.

          Membranous nephropathy is a major cause of nephrotic syndrome of non-diabetic origin in adults. It is the second or third leading cause of end-stage renal disease in patients with primary glomerulonephritis, and is the leading glomerulopathy that recurs after kidney transplantation (occurring in about 40% of patients). Treatment with costly and potentially toxic drugs remains controversial and challenging, partly because of insufficient insight into the pathogenesis of the disease and absence of sensitive biomarkers of disease activity. The disease is caused by the formation of immune deposits on the outer aspect of the glomerular basement membrane, which contain podocyte or planted antigens and circulating antibodies specific to those antigens, resulting in complement activation. In 2002, podocyte neutral endopeptidase was identified as an antigenic target of circulating antibodies in alloimmune neonatal nephropathy, and in 2009, podocyte phospholipase A2 receptor (PLA2R) was reported as an antigenic target in autoimmune adult membranous nephropathy. These major breakthroughs were translated to clinical practice very quickly. Measurement of anti-PLA2R antibodies in serum and detection of PLA2R antigen in glomerular deposits can now be done routinely. Anti-PLA2R antibodies have high specificity (close to 100%), sensitivity (70-80%), and predictive value. PLA2R detection in immune deposits allows for retrospective diagnosis of PLA2R-related membranous nephropathy in archival kidney biopsies. These tests already have a major effect on diagnosis and monitoring of treatment, including after transplantation.
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            Antenatal membranous glomerulonephritis due to anti-neutral endopeptidase antibodies.

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              Anti-Phospholipase A2 Receptor Antibody Titer Predicts Post-Rituximab Outcome of Membranous Nephropathy.

              Rituximab induces nephrotic syndrome (NS) remission in two-thirds of patients with primary membranous nephropathy (MN), even after other treatments have failed. To assess the relationships among treatment effect, circulating nephritogenic anti-phospholipase A2 receptor (anti-PLA2R) autoantibodies and genetic polymorphisms predisposing to antibody production we serially monitored 24-hour proteinuria and antibody titer in patients with primary MN and long-lasting NS consenting to rituximab (375 mg/m(2)) therapy and genetic analyses. Over a median (range) follow-up of 30.8 (6.0-145.4) months, 84 of 132 rituximab-treated patients achieved complete or partial NS remission (primary end point), and 25 relapsed after remission. Outcomes of patients with or without detectable anti-PLA2R antibodies at baseline were similar. Among the 81 patients with antibodies, lower anti-PLA2R antibody titer at baseline (P=0.001) and full antibody depletion 6 months post-rituximab (hazard ratio [HR], 7.90; 95% confidence interval [95% CI], 2.54 to 24.60; P<0.001) strongly predicted remission. All 25 complete remissions were preceded by complete anti-PLA2R antibody depletion. On average, 50% anti-PLA2R titer reduction preceded equivalent proteinuria reduction by 10 months. Re-emergence of circulating antibodies predicted disease relapse (HR, 6.54; 95% CI, 1.57 to 27.40; P=0.01), whereas initial complete remission protected from the event (HR, 6.63; 95% CI, 2.37 to 18.53; P<0.001). Eighteen patients achieved persistent antibody depletion and complete remission and never relapsed. Outcome was independent of PLA2R1 and HLA-DQA1 polymorphisms and of previous immunosuppressive treatment. Therefore, assessing circulating anti-PLA2R autoantibodies and proteinuria may help in monitoring disease activity and guiding personalized rituximab therapy in nephrotic patients with primary MN.

                Author and article information

                Kidney Dis (Basel)
                Kidney Dis (Basel)
                Kidney Diseases
                S. Karger AG (Allschwilerstrasse 10, P.O. Box · Postfach · Case postale, CH-4009, Basel, Switzerland · Schweiz · Suisse, Phone: +41 61 306 11 11, Fax: +41 61 306 12 34, karger@karger.ch )
                June 2018
                4 April 2018
                1 June 2019
                : 4
                : 2
                : 65-73
                aRenal Division, Department of Medicine, Peking University First Hospital, Institute of Nephrology, Peking University, Key Laboratory of Renal Disease, Ministry of Health of China, Key Laboratory of CKD Prevention and Treatment, Ministry of Education of China, Beijing, China
                bPeking-Tsinghua Center for Life Sciences, Beijing, China
                Author notes
                *Zhao Cui, MD, Renal Division and Institute of Nephrology, Peking University First Hospital, Beijing 100034 (PR China), E-Mail cuizhao@ 123456bjmu.edu.cn

                CSN/ERA EDTA Joint Session.

                PMC6029227 PMC6029227 6029227 kdd-0004-0065
                Copyright © 2018 by S. Karger AG, Basel
                Page count
                References: 113, Pages: 9


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