JASN 2017

A Proposal for a Serology-Based Approach

to Membranous Nephropathy


Primarymembranous nephropathy (MN) is an autoimmune disease mainly caused by autoantibodies against the recently discovered podocyte antigens: the M-type phospholipase A2 receptor 1 (PLA2R) and thrombospondin type 1 domain-containing 7A (THSD7A). Assays for quantitative assessment of anti-PLA2R antibodies are commercially available, but a semiquantitative test to detect anti-THSD7A antibodies has been only recently developed. The presence or absence of anti-PLA2R and anti-THSD7A antibodies adds important information to clinical and immunopathologic data in discriminating between primary and secondary MN. Levels of anti-PLA2R antibodies and possibly, anti-THSD7A antibodies tightly correlate with disease activity. Low baseline and decreasing anti-PLA2R antibody levels strongly predict spontaneous remission, thus favoring conservative therapy. Conversely, high baseline or increasing anti-PLA2R antibody levels associate with nephrotic syndrome and progressive loss of kidney function, thereby encouraging prompt initiation of immunosuppressive therapy. Serum anti-PLA2R antibody profiles reliably predict response to therapy, and levels at completion of therapymay forecast longterm outcome. Re-emergence of or increase in antibody titers precedes a clinical relapse. Persistence or reappearance of anti-PLA2R antibodies after kidney transplant predicts development of recurrent disease.We propose that an individualized serology-based approach to MN, used to complement and refine the traditional proteinuria-driven approach, will improve the outcome in this disease.