THSD7A-associated membranous nephropathy in a patient with neurofibromatosis type 1

Fujun Lin, Dan Zhang, Juan Chang, Xuanli Tang, Wenbin Guan, Gengru Jiang, Chun Zhu, Fan Bian
European Journal of Medical Genetics 2018, 61 (2): 84-88
Target antigens in idiopathic membranous nephropathy (MN) include the phospholipase A2 receptor (PLA2 R), and in some cases, the thrombospondin type 1 domain-containing 7A (THSD7A). A notable phenomenon is the high rate of cancer (reported to be as high as 20%) in patients with THSD7A-associated MN. Neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) is an autosomal dominant disease caused by NF1 gene mutation, and clinically characterized by multiple cutaneous neurofibromas and café-au-lait spots. In this article, we report a patient with NF1 who developed THSD7A-associated MN when the NF1 skin lesions deteriorated. The patient, a 62-year-old male, was referred to us for nephrotic syndrome for 6 months. Physical examination revealed multiple cutaneous nodules throughout the entire body, and the patient noted recent increase in the numbers of these skin lesions. Cutaneous nodules excisional biopsy suggested NF1 and Sanger sequencing using genomic DNA extracted from peripheral blood revealed a previously reported heterozygous frameshift NF1 mutation (c.1541_1542delAG, p. Gln514fs). Renal biopsy revealed MN and immunohistochemistry (IHC) showed enhanced staining of THSD7A as well as PLA2 R along the glomerular basement membrane whereas the serum level of THSD7A and PLA2 R were both within normal range. The neurofibroma tissues were positive for THSD7A but not for PLA2 R on IHC. The patient did not respond to 6-month treatment with glucocorticosteroid and cyclophosphamide. In this exceptional case, strong positive staining of THSD7A in both skin and renal biopsy samples, together with the temporal association between nephrotic syndrome and skin lesions and lack of treatment response, suggested the possibility that MN could be the result of immune response to THSD7A in NF1. This report may improve understanding of the mechanistic link between MN and cancer.

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