© 2019 Trachtman, Gipson, Lemley, Troost, Faul, Morrison, Vento, Ahn and Goldberg. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms. Objective: We conducted this study to test the hypothesis that plasma zonulin levels are elevated in pediatric patients with nephrotic syndrome compared to healthy controls. Study Design: Plasma zonulin levels were measured by ELISA in 114 children enrolled in the NEPTUNE study. Clinical and laboratory data were retrieved from the NEPTUNE database. Results: The median age of the patients was 10 (IQR = 5 to 14) years, 59 were male, 64 had minimal change disease, 47 focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, median eGFR was 96 (IQR = 80 to 114) ml/min/1.73 m2, and median urine protein:creatinine ratio was 0.5 (IQR = 0.1 to 3.4) (g:g). The plasma zonulin level was 14.2 ± 5.0 vs. 10.2 ± 2.5 ng/ml in healthy adults in a report using the same assay kit, P = 0.0025. These findings were confirmed in an independent cohort of children with nephrotic syndrome compared to healthy age-matched controls, P = 0.01. Zonulin concentrations did not differ in children with minimal change disease vs. focal segmental glomerulosclerosis, frequently relapsing vs. steroid-dependent vs. steroid-resistant clinical course, and were not influenced by the immunosuppressive treatment regimen. There was no relationship between plasma zonulin levels and the absolute or percentage change in proteinuria from enrollment until the time of the zonulin assay. Conclusion: Plasma zonulin levels are elevated in childhood nephrotic syndrome regardless of level of proteinuria or specific treatment. The cause of the high plasma zonulin levels and whether zonulin contributes to glomerular injury requires further study.
School of Medicine