Pathophysiology of proteinuria

Kidney Int. 2003 Mar;63(3):809-25. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1755.2003.00840.x.


Proteinuria is consequence of two mechanisms: the abnormal transglomerular passage of proteins due to increased permeability of glomerular capillary wall and their subsequent impaired reabsorption by the epithelial cells of the proximal tubuli. In the various glomerular diseases, the severity of disruption of the structural integrity of the glomerular capillary wall correlates with the area of the glomerular barrier being permeated by "large" pores, permitting the passage in the tubular lumen of high-molecular-weight (HMW) proteins, to which the barrier is normally impermeable. The increased load of such proteins in the tubular lumen leads to the saturation of the reabsorptive mechanism by the tubular cells, and, in the most severe or chronic conditions, to their toxic damage, that favors the increased urinary excretion of all proteins, including low-molecular-weight (LMW) proteins, which are completely reabsorbed in physiologic conditions. Recent clinical studies showed that in patients with glomerular diseases the urinary excretion of some HMW proteins [immunoglobulins G and M (IgG and IgM)] and of some LMW proteins, alpha1-microglobulin, beta2-microglobulin, correlates with the severity of the histologic lesions, and may predict, better than the quantity of proteinuria, the natural course, the outcome, and the response to treatment. It is suggested that some patients have already, at the time of clinical presentation, a structural damage of the glomerular capillary wall (injury of podocytes) and of the tubulointerstitium, the severity and scarce reversibility of which are reliably indicated by an elevated urinary excretion of HMW and LMW proteins.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Kidney Glomerulus / pathology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / physiopathology*
  • Proteinuria / pathology
  • Proteinuria / physiopathology*