Background: Mannose-binding lectin (MBL), a member of the collectin family, binds to various oligosaccharides and activates the classical pathway of complement independent from C1q. At present it is unknown whether this so-called lectin pathway of complement activation plays a role in the pathogenesis of human glomerulonephritis.
Methods: Direct immunofluorescence of 84 renal biopsies using an MBL-specific monoclonal antibody and antibodies directed against IgG, IgA, IgM, C1q, C3, and terminal complement complex (TCC) was performed. Serum MBL levels of 50 patients were determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: MBL was detected in the glomeruli of patients with lupus nephropathy (15 of 16), membranous nephropathy (10/15), membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis type I (5/6) and anti-GBM nephritis (2/4). MBL deposition paralleled that of immunoglobulins, C1q, C3, and TCC but was less intense as compared to C1q. Focal segmental deposits of MBL were present in focal segmental glomerulosclerosis (4/6), IgA nephropathy (3/11), amyloidosis AL (1/4), and advanced renal fibrosis (2/2). Here MBL staining was identical to IgM and C3 and considered an unspecific entrapment of MBL in sclerotic lesions in these cases. No significant difference in MBL serum levels was observed between normal controls and patients with lupus nephritis, membranous nephropathy, membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis, focal segmental sclerosis, minimal change disease or IgA nephropathy. In patients suffering from membranous nephropathy with (n=10) or without (n=5) glomerular MBL deposits serum creatinine, C3, C4, serum protein, and proteinuria were not statistically different.
Conclusion: MBL is present in the glomeruli of patients with glomerulonephritis involving deposition of IgG and activation of the classical pathway of complement. We propose that MBL binds to agalactosyl oligosaccharides of IgG that terminate in N-acetylglucosamine. The extent to which the lectin pathway of complement contributes to overall complement activation in the glomeruli remains unknown, but is likely to be marginal.