Microalbumin is a non-glycosylated protein with a molecular weight of 66,000 daltons. It is synthesized in liver parenchymal cells at a rate of 14 g/day. Quantitatively, albumin is the most important protein component (> 50%) in plasma, CSF and urine. A small, but abnormal albumin excretion in urine is known as microalbuminuria.

Causes of microalbuminuria can be glomerular (e.g. due to diabetic microangiopathy, hypertension, minor glomerular lesion), tubular (inhibition of reabsorption) or postrenal. Albumin is also a marker protein for various forms of proteinuria.

In selective glomerular proteinuria, 100-3000 mg albumin/g creatinine are excreted. Non-selective glomerular proteinuria is characterized by elevated excretion of high-molecular weight proteins (IgG more than 10% of the albumin value). Prerenal proteinuria is recognized by a discrepancy between albumin and total protein (albumin accounting for less than 30%). Simultaneous elevation of albumin and microproteins is found in glomerulotubular proteinuria occurring due to overloading of tubular reabsorption in glomerulopathy (e.g. nephrotic syndrome), combined glomerular tubulointerstitial nephropathy or in renal failure following diabetic nephropathy or other causes (overflow proteinuria).

Albumin has two main functions in plasma: maintaining the oncotic pressure (80 % due to albumin in plasma) and transport. It is the most important transport protein for substances having low water solubility (such as free fatty acids, bilirubin, metal ions, hormones and pharmaceuticals).

Depressed albumin levels are caused by hyperhydration, hepatocellular synthesis insufficiency, secretion disorders in the intravascular space, abnormal distribution between the intravascular and extravascular space, catabolism and loss of albumin, acute phase reactions and congenital analbuminemia.

A variety of methods, such as radial immunodiffusion, nephelometry and turbidimetry, are available for the determination of albumin

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