Active Heymann nephritis in the rat is a model of idiopathic membranous glomerulopathy in man. The autoimmune response is directed to gp330, a large epithelial glycoprotein that is expressed on the tubular and the glomerular epithelium. Characteristic of the disease is the presence of immune complexes and complement in the glomerulus and proteinuria. We studied the effect of a new xenobiotic immunosuppressive agent, mycophenolate mofetil, on active Heymann nephritis. Mycophenolate mofetil significantly reduced the production of autoantibodies against gp330 in rats with Heymann nephritis. Glomerular deposition of IgG was not significantly lower in the treated groups than in the untreated groups with active Heymann nephritis, as detected by immunofluorescence staining. Glomerular complement component C3, however, was significantly lower in the mycophenolate mofetil treated rats. Treatment did not completely prevent the disease, but the percentage of rats that developed proteinuria in the treated groups was significantly lower than in untreated Heymann rats. The results of this study show that mycophenolate mofetil influences the T-cell-mediated humoral autoimmune response in active Heymann nephritis and results in a decreased severity of the disease.

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