Introduction: Clinical course of membranous nephropathy (MN) is difficult to predict. Measurement of circulating anti-PLA2R autoantibodies (PLA2R-Ab) and detection in immune deposits of PLA2R antigen (PLA2R-Ag) are major advances in disease understanding. We evaluated the clinical significance of these biomarkers.
Methods: In this 14-year retrospective study, we collected data from 108 MN patients and assessed the relationship between clinical course, PLA2R-Ab and PLA2R-Ag. We also assessed THSD7A status.
Results: Eighty-five patients suffered from primary MN (PMN) and 23 patients from a secondary form. The median follow-up was 30.4 months [interquartile range, 17.7;56.7]. Among the 77 patients with PMN and available serum and/or biopsy, 69 (89.6%) had PLA2R-related disease as shown by anti-PLA2R-Ab and/or PLA2R-Ag, while 8 patients (8/77, 10.4%) were negative for both. There was no significant difference between these two groups in age at diagnosis and outcome assessed by proteinuria, serum albumin level and eGFR. Two of the 8 negative patients were positive for THSD7A. In patients with PLA2R related PMN, younger age, lower proteinuria, higher eGFR, and lower PLA2R-Ab level at baseline and after 6 months were associated with remission of proteinuria. Initial PLA2R-Ab titer ≤ 97.6 RU/mL and complete depletion of PLA2R-Ab within 6-months were significantly associated with spontaneous remission at the end of follow-up. In rituximab treated patients, lower PLA2R-Ab titer at initiation of treatment, and absence of PLA2R-Ab and higher serum albumin level at 3 months were significantly associated with remission. Noticeably, 81.8% of the patients who achieved remission completely cleared PLA2R-Ab. Depletion of PLA2R-Ab and increase of serum albumin level preceded the decrease of proteinuria.
Conclusion: Assessment of PLA2R autoimmunity is essential for patient management. Combination of PLA2R-Ab and PLA2R-Ag increases diagnosis sensitivity. PLA2R-Ab titer is a biomarker of disease severity at initial assessment, and the kinetics of the antibody are significantly correlated to disease evolution.