Background: In patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy, an increased urinary excretion of high (IgG) and low [beta(2)-microglobulin (beta(2)M), alpha(1)-microglobulin (alpha(1)M)] molecular weight proteins predicts prognosis and precedes renal insufficiency. We have studied the changes in the urinary excretion of these proteins in patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy and renal insufficiency during and after treatment with cyclophosphamide and steroids, and investigated their value in predicting long-term outcome.
Methods: Standardized measurements of urinary IgG, albumin, beta(2)M and alpha(1)M were performed at 0, 2, 6 and 12 months in 11 patients, at 12 months in 25 patients and in 17 of these last patients after 2-5 years.
Results: We observed a rapid improvement of glomerular permselectivity and tubular protein reabsorption within 2 months after the start of therapy. Despite a partial remission of proteinuria within 12 months in most patients, evidence of tubulo-interstitial injury remained apparent. Neither absolute levels of urinary IgG, beta(2)M or alpha(1)M at baseline or at 12 months nor the percentage reduction between baseline and 12 months clearly predicted the occurrence of a remission or a relapse to nephrotic range proteinuria. In the case of a persistent stable remission, we observed a gradual decrease of urinary beta(2)M towards normal values.
Conclusions: In patients with idiopathic membranous nephropathy and renal insufficiency, treatment with cyclophosphamide and steroids resulted in an improvement of glomerular permeability and tubular proteinuria. Tubular proteinuria remained present for many years, even in patients with stable remission of proteinuria. Measurements of urinary proteins at 12 months after treatment start lacked predictive accuracy.