The complement system in renal diseases

Nephron. 2001 Jul;88(3):199-204. doi: 10.1159/000045990.


The complement system has long been recognized as having a role in immune glomerular disease. This review provides an update on this association, some strategies for the clinical testing of complement in disease, and a brief commentary on current research directions. Evidence of complement activation in glomerulonephritis comes from characteristic patterns of a decrease in the serum concentrations of specific components, some of which are virtually diagnostic of certain nephritides. These patterns are often accompanied by the presence of complement components in the glomeruli and the detection of complement breakdown products in the circulation. In certain diseases, circulating complement-activating substances can be detected. Although there are over 20 complement proteins, clinical analysis is most often directed at C3 and C4, with occasional measurement of B and C5. Recently, a variety of mechanisms for complement-induced injury has been recognized. These mechanisms go far beyond simple passive lysis of erythrocytes, the earliest functional effect of complement studied. The role of such mechanisms in renal disease is just beginning to be studied. Local synthesis of complement components in the kidney may play a role both in host defense and in the promotion of interstitial inflammation and scarring. Such mechanisms will likely be defined more precisely with the availability of animals with specific complement deficiencies. Ultimately, an understanding of the role of complement in renal disease may permit specific targeted inhibition of one or more complement functions as a form of therapy.

Publication types

  • Lecture

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Complement Activation
  • Complement System Proteins / metabolism*
  • Gene Targeting
  • Glomerulonephritis / immunology
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / diagnosis
  • Kidney Diseases / immunology*
  • Kidney Diseases / therapy
  • Kidney Glomerulus / immunology


  • Complement System Proteins