16 September 2020
Idiopathic membranous nephropathy (IMN) is a pathological pattern of glomerular damage caused by an autoimmune response. Immune complex deposition, thickness of glomerular basement membrane, and changes in the podocyte morphology are responsible for the development of proteinuria, which is caused by the targeted binding of auto-antibodies to podocytes. Several auto-antigens have recently been identified in IMN, including M-type receptor for secretory phospholipase A2 (PLA2R1), thrombospondin type-1 domain-containing 7A (THSD7A), and neural epidermal growth factor-like 1 protein (NELL-1). The measurement of peripheral circulating antibodies has become an important clinical reference index. However, some clinical features of IMN remain elusive and need to be further investigated, such as the autoimmunity initiation, IgG4 predominance, spontaneous remission, and the unique glomerular lesion. As these unresolved issues are closely related to clinical practice, we have proposed a hypothetical pathogenesis model of IMN. Induced by environmental stimuli or other causes, the PLA2R1 antigen and/or THSD7A antigen exposed to extrarenal tissues, such as lungs, then produce the auto-antibodies that target and cause damage to the podocytes in circulation. In this review, we highlighted the potential association between environmental stimuli, immune activity, and glomerular lesions, the underlying basis for spontaneous immune and proteinuria remission.