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Clinical science (London, England : 1979)

Levamisole in steroid-sensitive nephrotic syndrome: usefulness in adult patients and laboratory insights into mechanisms of action via direct action on the kidney podocyte.


PMID 25626449

Abstract

Minimal change nephropathy (MCN) is the third most common cause of primary nephrotic syndrome in adults. Most patients with MCN respond to corticosteroid therapy, but relapse is common. In children, steroid-dependent patients are often given alternative agents to spare the use of steroids and to avoid the cumulative steroid toxicity. In this respect, levamisole has shown promise due to its ability to effectively maintain remission in children with steroid-sensitive or steroid-dependent nephrotic syndrome. Despite clinical effectiveness, there is a complete lack of molecular evidence to explain its mode of action and there are no published reports on the use of this compound in adult patients. We studied the effectiveness of levamisole in a small cohort of adult patients and also tested the hypothesis that levamisole's mode of action is attributable to its direct effects on podocytes. In the clinic, we demonstrate that in our adult patients, cohort levamisole is generally well tolerated and clinically useful. Using conditionally immortalized human podocytes, we show that levamisole is able to induce expression of glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and to activate GR signalling. Furthermore, levamisole is able to protect against podocyte injury in a puromycin aminonucleoside (PAN)-treated cell model. In this model the effects of levamisole are blocked by the GR antagonist mifepristone (RU486), suggesting that GR signalling is a critical target of levamisole's action. These results indicate that levamisole is effective in nephrotic syndrome in adults, as well as in children, and point to molecular mechanisms for this drug's actions in podocyte diseases.