Immunoglobulin A nephritis (IgAN) is the most common primary glomerulonephritis worldwide. It is caused by accumulation of IgA1-containing immune complexes in the kidney resulting in renal failure, which is thought to be due to altered glycosylation of IgA with a decrease of 2–3-sialylated galactosides (NeuAcα2-3Gal).
The purpose of this study was to analyze whether altered glycosylation of IgA would lead to an altered binding to galectin-8, an endogenous lectin with strong affinity for 2–3-sialylated galactosides. Galectins are a family of β-galactoside-binding proteins; by binding various glycoproteins, they play important roles in the regulation of cellular functions in inflammation and immunity. Hence, an altered binding of IgA to galectin-8 could lead to pathologic immune functions, such as glomerulonephritis.
Affinity chromatography of serum glycoproteins on the human sialogalactoside-binding lectin galectin-8N permitted quantitation of bound and unbound fractions, including IgA.
Analysis of ∼100 IgA nephritis sera showed that the galectin-8N unbound fraction of IgA increased compared to ∼100 controls, consistent with the known loss of galactosylation. A subgroup of ∼15% of the IgAN patients had a ratio of galectin-8 bound/unbound IgA <0.09, not found for any of the controls. Unexpectedly, the galectin-8N-binding fraction of serum glycoproteins other than IgA increased in the sera of IgAN patients but not in controls, suggesting a previously unrecognized change in this disease.
This is the first study that relates a galectin, an endogenous lectin family, to IgA nephritis and thus should stimulate new avenues of research into the pathophysiology of the disease.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1007/s10875-011-9618-3) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.