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Hum Pathol. 2002 Aug;33(8):836-45.

Histopathology, ultrastructure, and clinical phenotypes in thin glomerular basement membrane disease variants.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, Renal Division and Cell Biology, Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, MO 63110, USA.


Recent genetic studies indicate that Alport syndrome and thin glomerular basement membrane disease (TMD) may both be due to COL4A3, COL4A4, and COL4A5 mutations, but there is continuing uncertainty concerning the diagnosis and management of patients without classic family history and symptoms. We examined kidney pathology and collagen alpha 3 to alpha 5(IV) expression in a series of 16 patients who presented with overlapping signs between TMD and Alport nephritis. All patients presented with hematuria, and 11 also had proteinuria, of whom 5 had nephrotic range proteinuria. Only 9 had family history of hematuria. In 9 of 16 (60%) we found premature glomerulosclerosis in the renal biopsies. Three of 16 had predominantly wide, lamellated glomerullar basement membranes (GBM), and in these, alpha 3 to alpha 5(IV) was absent in glomeruli or skin, diagnostic of Alport nephritis. One patient (12) had a very wide GBM with intramembranous lucencies but no lamellation. Skin biopsy was collagen alpha 5(IV) positive. Nine of 16 patients had predominantly thin GBM by electron microscopy, and 3 had thin and slightly lamellated GBM. Collagen alpha 3 to alpha 5(IV) expression in the kidney or skin biopsy was present in all of the latter 12 patients. Three patients had end-stage renal disease, 7 patients had hypertension, and 1 patient had chronic renal failure. We found that of the 16 patients with presumed TMD, 3 had X-linked Alport nephritis, 2 appeared to have autosomal recessive Alport nephritis, and the remaining patients had either an Alport or a TMD variant. The latter had histologic and/or clinical evidence of progressive renal disease, including premature glomerulosclerosis, hypertension, sustained proteinuria, and either thin or slight GBM lamellation focally, and preserved alpha 3 to alpha 5(IV) expression. These patients have a TMD variant, but an Alport variant with a potentially transmissible severe defect different from benign hematuria cannot be excluded.

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