Pharmacology and pharmacogenetics of prednisone and prednisolone in patients with nephrotic syndrome

Pediatr Nephrol. 2019 Mar;34(3):389-403. doi: 10.1007/s00467-018-3929-z. Epub 2018 Mar 16.


Nephrotic syndrome is one of the most common glomerular disorders in childhood. Glucocorticoids have been the cornerstone of the treatment of childhood nephrotic syndrome for several decades, as the majority of children achieves complete remission after prednisone or prednisolone treatment. Currently, treatment guidelines for the first manifestation and relapse of nephrotic syndrome are mostly standardized, while large inter-individual variation is present in the clinical course of disease and side effects of glucocorticoid treatment. This review describes the mechanisms of glucocorticoid action and clinical pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of prednisone and prednisolone in nephrotic syndrome patients. However, these mechanisms do not account for the large inter-individual variability in the response to glucocorticoid treatment. Previous research has shown that genetic factors can have a major influence on the pharmacokinetic and dynamic profile of the individual patient. Therefore, pharmacogenetics may have a promising role in personalized medicine for patients with nephrotic syndrome. Currently, little is known about the impact of genetic polymorphisms on glucocorticoid response and steroid-related toxicities in children with nephrotic syndrome. Although the evidence is limited, the data summarized in this study do suggest a role for pharmacogenetics to improve individualization of glucocorticoid therapy. Therefore, studies in larger cohorts with nephrotic syndrome patients are necessary to draw final conclusions about the influence of genetic polymorphisms on the glucocorticoid response and steroid-related toxicities to ultimately implement pharmacogenetics in clinical practice.

Keywords: Glucocorticoids; Nephrotic syndrome; Pharmacogenetics; Pharmacology; Prednisolone; Prednisone.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B / genetics
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Biological Variation, Population / genetics*
  • Child
  • Drug Resistance / genetics*
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / genetics
  • Polymorphism, Genetic
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Precision Medicine / methods*
  • Precision Medicine / standards
  • Prednisolone / pharmacology
  • Prednisolone / therapeutic use
  • Prednisone / pharmacology
  • Prednisone / therapeutic use
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / genetics
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid / metabolism
  • Remission Induction / methods
  • Renal Elimination / genetics
  • Tissue Distribution / genetics
  • Treatment Outcome


  • ABCB1 protein, human
  • ATP Binding Cassette Transporter, Subfamily B
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Receptors, Glucocorticoid
  • Prednisolone
  • Prednisone