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      Recent insights into C3 glomerulopathy

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          ‘C3 glomerulopathy’ is a recent disease classification comprising several rare types of glomerulonephritis (GN), including dense deposit disease (DDD), C3 glomerulonephritis (C3GN) and CFHR5 nephropathy. These disorders share the key histological feature of isolated complement C3 deposits in the glomerulus. A common aetiology involving dysregulation of the alternative pathway (AP) of complement has been elucidated in the past decade, with genetic defects and/or autoantibodies able to be identified in a proportion of patients. We review the clinical and histological features of C3 glomerulopathy, relating these to underlying molecular mechanisms. The role of uncontrolled C3 activation in pathogenesis is emphasized, with important lessons from animal models. Methods, advantages and limitations of gene testing in the assessment of individuals or families with C3 glomerulopathy are discussed. While no therapy has yet been shown consistently effective, clinical evaluation of agents targeting specific components of the complement system is ongoing. However, limits to current knowledge regarding the natural history and the appropriate timing and duration of proposed therapies need to be addressed.

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          Complement. Second of two parts.

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            Eculizumab for dense deposit disease and C3 glomerulonephritis.

            The principle defect in dense deposit disease and C3 glomerulonephritis is hyperactivity of the alternative complement pathway. Eculizumab, a monoclonal antibody that binds to C5 to prevent formation of the membrane attack complex, may prove beneficial. In this open-label, proof of concept efficacy and safety study, six subjects with dense deposit disease or C3 glomerulonephritis were treated with eculizumab every other week for 1 year. All had proteinuria >1 g/d and/or AKI at enrollment. Subjects underwent biopsy before enrollment and repeat biopsy at the 1-year mark. The subjects included three patients with dense deposit disease (including one patient with recurrent dense deposit disease in allograft) and three patients with C3 glomerulonephritis (including two patients with recurrent C3 glomerulonephritis in allograft). Genetic and complement function testing revealed a mutation in CFH and MCP in one subject each, C3 nephritic factor in three subjects, and elevated levels of serum membrane attack complex in three subjects. After 12 months, two subjects showed significantly reduced serum creatinine, one subject achieved marked reduction in proteinuria, and one subject had stable laboratory parameters but histopathologic improvements. Elevated serum membrane attack complex levels normalized on therapy and paralleled improvements in creatinine and proteinuria. Clinical and histopathologic data suggest a response to eculizumab in some but not all subjects with dense deposit disease and C3 glomerulonephritis. Elevation of serum membrane attack complex before treatment may predict response. Additional research is needed to define the subgroup of dense deposit disease/C3 glomerulonephritis patients in whom eculizumab therapy can be considered.
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              Uncontrolled C3 activation causes membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis in mice deficient in complement factor H.

              The alternative pathway of complement is activated continuously in vivo through the C3 'tick-over' pathway. This pathway is triggered by the hydrolysis of C3, resulting in the formation of C3 convertase. This, in turn, generates C3b, which mediates many of the biological functions of complement. Factor H, the main regulator of this activation, prevents formation and promotes dissociation of the C3 convertase enzyme, and, together with factor I, mediates the proteolytic inactivation of C3b. Factor H deficiency, described in 29 individuals from 12 families and in pigs, allows unhindered activation of fluid-phase C3 and severe depletion of plasma C3 (ref. 11). Membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis (MPGN) occurs in factor H-deficient humans and pigs. Although MPGN has been reported in other conditions in which uncontrolled activation of C3 occurs, the role of C3 dysregulation in the pathogenesis of MPGN is not understood. Here we show that mice deficient in factor H (Cfh(-/-) mice) develop MPGN spontaneously and are hypersensitive to developing renal injury caused by immune complexes. Introducing a second mutation in the gene encoding complement factor B, which prevents C3 turnover in vivo, obviates the phenotype of Cfh(-/-) mice. Thus, uncontrolled C3 activation in vivo is essential for the development of MPGN associated with deficiency of factor H.

                Author and article information

                Nephrol Dial Transplant
                Nephrol. Dial. Transplant
                Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation
                Oxford University Press
                July 2013
                10 March 2013
                10 March 2013
                : 28
                : 7
                : 1685-1693
                Centre for Complement & Inflammation Research (CCIR), Division of Immunology and Inflammation, Department of Medicine, Imperial College London , London W12 0NN, UK
                Author notes
                [* ] Correspondence and offprint requests to: H. Terence Cook; E-mail: t.h.cook@
                © The Author 2012. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of ERA-EDTA.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits non-commercial reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. For commercial re-use, please contact

                Cutting-Edge Renal Science
                Reviews - Clinical Science and Outcome Research in Nephrology


                kidney, complement, dense deposit, eculizumab, glomerulonephritis


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