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J Am Soc Nephrol. 1996 Dec;7(12):2518-26.

Molecular mechanisms of glomerular injury in rat experimental membranous nephropathy (Heymann nephritis)


The molecular pathogenesis of human membranous nephropathy (MN) is unknown, despite the relatively high incidence and severity of this glomerular immune disease. Heymann nephritis (HN) in rats is considered an instructive experimental model of MN. This study summarizes current molecular aspects of two key events common to both MN and HN, i.e., formation of characteristic subepithelial immune deposits in the glomerular basement membrane (GBM), and development of glomerular capillary wall damage resulting in proteinuria. In HN, the antigenic targets of immune deposit-forming antibodies were identified in cell membranes of glomerular epithelial cells as a 515-kd glycoprotein (megalin, or gp330), which is a polyspecific receptor related to the low-density lipoprotein receptor family, and an associated 44-kd protein (receptor associated protein, RAP). One epitope was recently narrowed to 14 amino acids in RAP, and several others on megalin/gp330 are under investigation. Proteinuria requires formation of the complement C5b-9 membrane attack complex, which is presumably triggered by antibodies directed against lipid antigens that associate with immune deposit-forming megalin/gp330 immune complexes. Sublytic C5b-9 attack on glomerular epithelial cells causes upregulation of expression of the NADPH oxidoreductase enzyme complex by glomerular cells, which is translocated to their cell surfaces, similar to activated neutrophil granulocytes in the respiratory burst reaction. Subsequently, reactive oxygen species (ROS) are produced locally, which reach the GBM matrix. Here formation of lipid peroxidation (LPO) adducts is found, preferentially on monomeric and dimerized NCl domains of covalently crosslinked Type IV collagen. These structural changes within the GBM could be of functional relevance because treatment with the potent LPO-antagonist probucol reduces proteinuria by < 80%. Intact or fragmented apoprotein E-containing lipoproteins were identified as potential sources of the polyunsaturated lipids required for the production of LPO adducts. Lipoproteins accumulate within immune deposits and show signs of oxidative damage, similar to oxidized LDL within atherosclerotic lesions. Collectively, the results obtained so far in HN permit the compilation of a sequence of events, linking formation of immune deposits with proteinuria. However, despite this relatively detailed knowledge of pathogenic events in HN, the bridge to human NM remains to be built.

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