AIM--To identify a physico-chemical criterion, or set of criteria, explaining and possibly predicting the nephrotoxic behaviour of Bence-Jones proteins (BJP). METHODS--The electrophoretic mobility and isoelectric point (pI) of 92 BJP isolates were determined using various electrophoresis procedures on polyacrylamide gel. The proportions of monomers and dimers were determined using sodium dodecyl sulphate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS PAGE) in 58 cases. PAGE data for 10 BJP isolates were used to construct Ferguson plots and titration curves. RESULTS--The distribution of electrophoretic mobility and pI values was bimodal and showed a positive correlation when the pI was above 6. The values of these two parameters in 22 patients with renal impairment were not significantly different from those in the patients without renal impairment, and the statistical analysis showed no predictive value for the onset of renal impairment. However, patients excreting the lambda light chain isotype had a 2.8-fold higher risk of developing renal impairment compared with the other patients. Studies of the charge variation of the protein with pH indicated three types of behaviour, suggesting that the charge of BJP is highly variable at physiological pH. CONCLUSION--It is important to study not only the positivity or negativity of the BJP charge at a given pH, but also its intensity. The study of the BJP titration curves in patients with renal impairment suggests that a low charge at physiological urinary pH could predict renal impairment.
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