Background: Among patients with the idiopathic nephrotic syndrome who have focal and segmental glomerulosclerosis and undergo renal transplantation, 15 to 55 percent have recurrent nephrotic syndrome. The recurrence may be caused by a plasma factor or factors that increase glomerular permeability, because plasma exchange transiently decreases or abolishes proteinuria in some patients. We studied the effect on proteinuria of the removal of protein (mostly immunoglobulins) by adsorption onto protein A from the plasma of patients with recurrent nephrotic syndrome.
Methods: Eight patients were treated with one to three cycles of two to seven 1-day sessions of protein adsorption, and the patients' urinary protein excretion was measured repeatedly. Their immunosuppressive regimens were not changed during the treatment. The adsorbed proteins were eluted from the protein A and injected into rats, and the urinary albumin excretion of the rats was measured.
Results: The protein-adsorption treatment consistently decreased urinary protein excretion by an average of 82 percent at the end of a cycle (P < 0.001). In one patient proteinuria disappeared, and in another urinary protein excretion remained below 2.5 g per day with repeated cycles of protein adsorption. In all but one patient the effect of adsorption was limited in time, with a return to the preadsorption level of protein excretion within a maximum of two months. The administration to rats of material eluted from the protein A increased urinary albumin excretion 2.9- to 4.6-fold (P < 0.001 and P = 0.005, respectively). Although protein A primarily binds immunoglobulins, the active fraction of the eluted proteins had a molecular weight below 100,000, indicating that immunoglobulin was not directly involved.
Conclusions: Adsorption of plasma protein decreases urinary protein excretion in patients with recurrence of the nephrotic syndrome after renal transplantation. Studies of the adsorbed proteins should provide information about the mechanism of this disease.