Samples of protein from the urine of 23 patients with lupus nephropathy and 15 patients with proteinuria who did not have systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) were studied for the presence of cytokines, soluble interleukin 2 receptors (sIL-2R), and free light chain immunoglobulins. The patients with lupus nephropathy were divided into two groups with active (nephritis) and inactive inflammation (nephrosis) based on the results of the analysis of urine samples and renal histology. The crude urine proteins (5 mg/ml) after precipitation by 80% ammonium sulphate from 14 patients with lupus nephritis contained higher concentrations of sIL-2R (4.88 (SEM 1.27 ng/ml) than those from nine patients with nephrosis (1.11 (0.52) ng/ml) or 15 patients without SLE (1.31 (0.87) ng/ml). The concentration of sIL-2R in protein from urine samples was not correlated with the concentration in plasma and was inversely correlated with the excretion of protein in urine over 24 hours in patients with SLE. It is suggested that, in addition to leakage from the circulation, the local production of sIL-2R by inflamed kidneys is possible. The crude proteins in urine were further fractionated by gel filtration on Sephacryl S-200. Arbitrarily, four fractions could be obtained from urine from patients with SLE but only three fractions were found in the urine of patients without SLE. Fraction IV derived from patients with nephritis or nephrosis augmented the pokeweed mitogen induced [3H]thymidine uptake of mononuclear cells. In addition, the positive rates of free kappa (kappa) (35.7%) and lambda (lambda) (42.9%) chains in proteins in urine from nephritic patients were higher than those in the other two groups. These results suggest that the severity of inflammation in the kidneys of patients with lupus can be reflected by the increased excretion of sIL-2R, free light chain immunoglobulins, and cytokine-like molecules in urine.
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