1. The effect of inhibiting the rate-limiting enzyme (3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase, EC in cholesterol synthesis on plasma lipid and lipoprotein concentrations was investigated in 16 patients with primary glomerular disease, heavy proteinuria, well-preserved renal function and hypercholesterolaemia.

2. Detailed studies of low-density lipoprotein metabolism were performed on eight patients before and after 12 weeks of simvastatin therapy. Radioiodinated tracers were used to quantify the fractional catabolic rate of low-density lipoprotein by apolipoprotein B/E receptors and alternative pathways.

3. Simvastatin produced consistent reductions in total plasma cholesterol concentration (median 36.9%), plasma low-density lipoprotein-cholesterol concentration (43.6%) and apolipoprotein B pool size (29.9%).

4. In contrast, the changes in kinetic parameters of low-density lipoprotein metabolism showed no clear pattern. Although an increase in the receptor-mediated catabolism of low-density lipoprotein was demonstrated in five patients, no change or a slight decrease was seen in three patients. Production rates were not significantly altered, although there was a slight decrease in the median value (from 12.4 to 9.7 mg day−1 kg−1). Plasma lathosterol concentration was reduced in all eight patients (range 34–71%), indirectly confirming significant inhibition of cholesterol synthesis.

5. These results suggest that, as in patients with primary moderate hyperlipidaemia, the significant cholesterol-lowering effect of 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA reductase inhibitors in the nephrotic syndrome is accompanied by variable changes in lipoprotein metabolism. The reasons for this heterogeneous response are unclear. This reflects our limited understanding of the metabolic basis of nephrotic hyperlipidaemia and the relationship between hepatic sterol synthesis and plasma lipoprotein kinetics.

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