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.