Two indices of the selectivity of proteinuria, the immunoglobulin G (IgG)/albumin and the IgG/transferrin clearance ratios, were studied cross-sectionally and serially over 7 years in a cohort of 52 Type 1 and 60 Type 2 diabetic patients without established diabetic nephropathy. In Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic patients with albuminuria less than 30 micrograms min-1, both protein clearance ratios were significantly higher than in 27 control subjects. As albuminuria increased, there was a decrease in both protein clearance ratios. However, at albumin clearances above 90 nl s-1, equivalent to albumin excretion rates of greater than 250 micrograms min-1, a positive correlation was found in Type 2 diabetic patients between protein clearance ratios and albuminuria. In individual Type 1 and Type 2 diabetic patients with progressively increasing proteinuria, serial measurements of selectivity showed a decline in both protein clearance ratios with the onset of microalbuminuria. Episodes of transient microalbuminuria were also associated with a fall in the IgG/albumin clearance ratio. The results suggest that the selectivity of proteinuria undergoes a triphasic change with the development of diabetic nephropathy. In the first phase, proteinuria is non-selective with IgG clearance equal to or exceeding transferrin or albumin clearance. As microalbuminuria develops, there is a progressive increase in selectivity reflecting the preferential excretion of transferrin and albumin compared with IgG. In later stages of nephropathy, as shown in Type 2 diabetic patients with macroalbuminuria, there is a return to non-selective proteinuria.
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