Glomerular membrane attack complex is not a reliable marker of ongoing C5 activation in lupus nephritis

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Complement plays an important role in the pathogenesis of lupus nephritis (LN). With the emergence of therapeutic complement inhibition, there is a need to identify patients in whom complement-driven inflammation is a major cause of kidney injury in LN. Clinical and histopathological data were obtained retrospectively from 57 biopsies with class III, IV, and V LN. Biopsies were stained for complement components C9, C5b-9, C3c, and C3d and for the macrophage marker CD68. C9 and C5b-9 staining were highly correlated (r = 0.92 in the capillary wall). C5b-9 staining was detected in the mesangium and/or capillary wall of both active and chronic proliferative LN in all but one biopsy and in the capillary wall of class V LN in all biopsies. C5b-9 staining intensity in the tubular basement membrane correlated with markers of tubulointerstitial damage, and more intense capillary wall C5b-9 staining was significantly associated with nonresponse to conventional treatment. Glomerular C5b-9 staining intensity did not differ between active and chronic disease; in contrast, C3c and CD68 staining were associated with active disease. Evaluation of serial biopsies and comparison of staining in active and chronic LN demonstrated that C5b-9 staining persisted for months to years. These results suggest that C5b-9 staining is almost always present in LN, resolves slowly, and is not a reliable marker of ongoing glomerular C5 activation. This limits the utility of C5b-9 staining to identify patients who are most likely to benefit from C5 inhibition.




Wilson, H. R., Medjeral-Thomas, N. R., Gilmore, A. C., Trivedi, P., Seyb, K., Farzaneh-Far, R., … Pickering, M. C. (2019). Glomerular membrane attack complex is not a reliable marker of ongoing C5 activation in lupus nephritis. Kidney International, 95(3), 655–665.

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