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J Am Soc Nephrol. 1995 Jul;6(1):35-47.

The Heymann nephritis antigenic complex: megalin (gp330) and RAP.

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Division of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla 92093-0651, USA.


Heymann nephritis (HN) has been extensively studied as a model of human membranous nephropathy since it was first described by Heymann in 1959. HN was induced in active form by the immunization of rats with antigens derived from the proximal tubule brush border, resulting in subepithelial glomerular immune deposits. HN was also induced passively by the injection of antibrush border antibodies into normal rats. A breakthrough in the understanding of the pathogenesis of HN was made in the 1970s, when it was established that the disease was due to the binding of circulating antibodies to glomerular components. This in turn led to a search to identify the endogenous antigen(s). In 1982, gp330 (now called megalin), a glycoprotein located in clathrin-coated pits of glomerular and proximal tubular epithelia, was identified as a target antigen. In 1990, a second protein (44 kd), now known as RAP (for receptor associated protein), that binds to megalin was also shown to be a target antigen. Both molecules have been cloned and sequenced, and their role in normal epithelial cells has been explored. It has come to light that megalin (gp330) is a member of the low-density lipoprotein receptor gene family and functions as a multiligand receptor for the uptake of a variety of macromolecules (plasminogen, protease: protease inhibitor complexes, apolipoprotein E-enriched very low-density lipoproteins, lactoferrin, among others). RAP associates with megalin and appears to function as a chaperone assisting in the folding of megalin in the endoplasmic reticulum and its transport to the cell surface. This review considers what is now known about the structure, function, and trafficking of megalin and RAP and the role of these two molecules in the pathogenesis of HN.

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