Background: The recent finding that phospholipase-A(2)-receptor antibodies (PLA(2)R-AB) may play a role in the development of primary membranous glomerulonephritis (MGN) offers the opportunity to measure a marker to help diagnose, classify and eventually monitor the course of patients with MGN.
Methods: We developed an immunofluorescence test, which allows the easy and specific analysis of the presence of PLA(2)R-AB in serum. The usefulness of this test was studied in 153 healthy blood donors, 90 patients with non-membranous glomerular injuries, 17 patients with a secondary form of MGN and 100 patients with biopsy-proven primary MGN. In addition, in five patients with biopsy-proven MGN, PLA(2)R-AB levels were monitored prospectively for up to 18 months following a single dose of rituximab (RTX) (375 mg/m(2) body surface).
Results: PLA(2)R-AB were not found in healthy controls or patients with glomerular lesions other than biopsy-proven primary MGN. Fifty-two patients with primary MGN (52%) were positive for PLA(2)R-AB. The levels ranged from 1:10 to 1:3200. In patients who had MGN and were treated with RTX the fall in PLA(2)R-AB levels was followed by a decrease in proteinuria, whereas an increase in PLA(2)R-AB levels was associated with an increase in proteinuria.
Conclusions: These studies show that the new test allows the monitoring of PLA(2)R-AB levels in patients with MGN and may help in making therapeutic decisions for these patients.