High prevalence of and potential mechanisms for chronic kidney disease in patients with acute intermittent porphyria

Kidney Int. 2015 Aug;88(2):386-95. doi: 10.1038/ki.2015.97. Epub 2015 Apr 1.


Acute intermittent porphyria (AIP) is a genetic disorder of the synthesis of heme caused by a deficiency in hydroxymethylbilane synthase (HMBS), leading to the overproduction of the porphyrin precursors δ-aminolevulinic acid and porphobilinogen. The aim of this study is to describe the clinical and biological characteristics, the renal pathology, and the cellular mechanisms of chronic kidney disease associated with AIP. A total of 415 patients with HMBS deficiency followed up in the French Porphyria Center were enrolled in 2003 in a population-based study. A follow-up study was conducted in 2013, assessing patients for clinical, biological, and histological parameters. In vitro models were used to determine whether porphyrin precursors promote tubular and endothelial cytotoxicity. Chronic kidney disease occurred in up to 59% of the symptomatic AIP patients, with a decline in the glomerular filtration rate of ~1 ml/min per 1.73 m(2) annually. Proteinuria was absent in the vast majority of the cases. The renal pathology was a chronic tubulointerstitial nephropathy, associated with a fibrous intimal hyperplasia and focal cortical atrophy. Our experimental data provide evidence that porphyrin precursors promote endoplasmic reticulum stress, apoptosis, and epithelial phenotypic changes in proximal tubular cells. In conclusion, the diagnosis of chronic kidney disease associated with AIP should be considered in cases of chronic tubulointerstitial nephropathy and/or focal cortical atrophy with severe proliferative arteriosclerosis.

Publication types

  • Observational Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aminolevulinic Acid / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects*
  • Epithelial Cells / ultrastructure
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • France / epidemiology
  • Glomerular Filtration Rate
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylbilane Synthase
  • Hypertension / epidemiology
  • Kidney Tubules / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephritis, Interstitial / complications*
  • Phenotype
  • Porphobilinogen / pharmacology
  • Porphyria, Acute Intermittent / complications*
  • Porphyria, Acute Intermittent / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / epidemiology*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / etiology*
  • Renal Insufficiency, Chronic / pathology
  • Tunica Intima / pathology*


  • Porphobilinogen
  • Aminolevulinic Acid
  • Hydroxymethylbilane Synthase

Supplementary concepts

  • Nephropathy, Chronic Tubulointerstitial