The podocyte injury, and consequent proteinuria, that characterize the pathology of idiopathic membranous nephropathy (IMN) is mediated by an autoimmune reaction against podocyte antigens. In particular, the activation of pathways leading to abundant renal deposits of complement is likely to involve the binding of mannose-binding lectin (MBL) to aberrant glycans on immunoglobulins. To obtain a landscape of circulatory IgG Fc glycosylation characterizing this disease, we conducted a systematic N-glycan profiling study of IgG1, 2, and 4 by mass spectrometry. The cohort included 57 IMN patients, a pathological control group with nephrotic syndrome (PN) (n = 20), and 88 healthy control subjects. The effect of sex and age was assessed in all groups and controlled by rigorous matching. Several IgG Fc glycan traits were found to be associated with IMN. Interestingly, among them, only IgG4-related results were specific for IMN and not for PN. Hypo-galactosylation of IgG4, already shown for IMN, was observed to occur in the absence of core fucose, in line with a probable increase of pro-inflammatory IgG. In addition, elevated levels of fucosylated IgG4, along with low levels of hybrid-type glycans, were detected. Some of these IgG4 alterations are likely to be more pronounced in high PLA2R (phospholipase A2 receptor) patients. IgG Fc glycosylation patterns associated with IMN warrant further studies of their role in disease mechanisms and may eventually enrich the diagnostic spectrum regarding patient stratification.
Keywords: IMN; IgG; LC-MS; N-glycans; galactosylation; glycoproteomics; glycosylation.